innocence blog

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Wrongly convicted man to recieve $4 million

This article appeared in Oklahoma's Examiner Enterprise:

Wrongly convicted man to receive $4 million settlement

By AP
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A man wrongly convicted of rape due in part to testimony from a fired police chemist will receive $4 million as part of a settlement agreed to by the Oklahoma City Council.

City officials on Tuesday approved a resolution in which they admitted no liability in Jeffrey Todd Pierce's federal lawsuit.

Pierce sued police chemist Joyce Gilchrist, former Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy and the city in 2003 after results of a DNA test showed he didn't rape a woman at an Oklahoma apartment complex in 1985. Gilchrist, who testified about DNA evidence at the trial, and Macy, whose office prosecuted him, both claimed immunity.

Gilchrist's professional credibility was questioned after the Pierce case unraveled, and subsequent investigations resulted in new trials for some defendants who were found guilty based on her testimony. Gilchrist, who was fired in 2001, couldn't be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Pierce maintained his innocence while serving 15 years of a 65-year prison term for rape, sodomy, burglary and assault with a dangerous weapon.Councilman Pete White said the settlement was good for taxpayers and also fair to Pierce.

The city could have been hit for much more," White said. "This guy was wronged, there's no two ways about it. He had no record at all. He was completely clean. He was an innocent man."Pierce's attorney, Clark Brewster, couldn't be reached for comment.

The settlement comes as both sides prepared to go to trial next month.

Pierce's lawsuit claimed his constitutional rights were violated when he was arrested in March 1986 for crimes he didn't commit, according to court documents. Oklahoma City officials denied Pierce's contention that Gilchrist and other police chemists weren't properly trained and added that the actions she allegedly took weren't according to municipal policy.

U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron denied Gilchrist's motion for a summary judgment in the case on Jan. 16 and a tentative agreement was floated at a settlement conference held the next day.

Gilchrist filed a wrongful termination lawsuit, but a federal judge ruled that her inadequate forensic work was sufficient reason for the city to fire her. She also was denied unemployment benefits.Meanwhile, another lawsuit filed against Gilchrist, Macy and the city by David Bryson is still pending.

Bryson, imprisoned for 17 years in a kidnapping and rape case, was freed in 1999 after testing showed his DNA did not match evidence collected from the victim.

Bryson claims Gilchrist lied in 1988 when she told his lawyer the evidence had been destroyed.

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