North Carolina Man Files Suit Against Officers
Nearly four years after a North Carolina man was freed from prison based on evidence of his innocence, he has asked a federal appeals court to revive his 2011 multimillion dollar lawsuit against the police officers he said faked evidence against him. U.S. District Judge Bob Conrad threw out the case a year ago. He said that the officers had probable cause to arrest the now-exonerated man in 1998.
Shawn Massey served 12 years behind bars for a robbery he has always said he didn’t commit, before
Duke Law School’s Center for Criminal Justice & Professional Responsibility
proved his innocence.
reported that Massey maintains that his wrongful arrest, conviction and incarceration for a kidnapping and robbery was based on the falsification of eyewitness testimony by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers including J.J. Ojaniit, Gerald Esposito and Tom Ledford.
The night of the 1998 robbery, a 21-year-old woman reported than a man with a gun entered her home, tried to rape her and stole $60 from her purse. The victim said her attacker’s hair was pulled back from his face and that he had braids on the back of his head. According to officer Esposito, a woman who lived in the neighborhood told him that Massey slept over the night before and wore his hair the same as the assailant. Massey was arrested a week later, but at trial the woman denied ever making the statement. And in 2009, before Massey was cleared of the crime, Duke law students interviewed the victim, who again stated that the perpetrator had cornrows. Photos of Massey from two months before the attack, however, showed him with short hair.
When he was released in 2010, former Mecklenburg District Attorney Peter Gilchrist said his office erred in not letting Massey’s lawyers know that, before the trial, the victim in the case had expressed temporary doubts that it was Massey who had attacked her.
Massey’s legal team at Duke Law School, including law professor James Coleman, asked a three-judge panel of the Fourth District U.S. Court of Appeals to restore Massey’s lawsuit citing that police fabricated the essential piece of evidence about his hair. According to the
, Coleman said, “It’s the only issue in the case. Without it, the other evidence doesn’t matter.”
The judges’ decision is expected later this year.
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