innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Exonerated man sues Miami

This article appeared in the New York Times on March 21, 2007:

Man Exonerated of Rape Sues Miami

Filed at 9:57 p.m. ET

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -- A man who spent 26 years in prison for rapes he didn't commit sued Miami-Dade County and police Wednesday, accusing them of falsifying records and other illegal actions.

Luis Diaz Martinez, 69, was released in March 2005 after DNA evidence excluded him as the attacker in two rapes and cast doubt on his conviction in all five cases. Earlier, victims had recanted their testimony in two other convictions.

''They railroaded this man and took 26 years of his life. They took away from him any chance of having a family, any chance for a career, and any chance he had at happiness,'' said his attorney Marvin Kurzban. ''We are here to right that wrong.''

County officials did not immediately return messages Wednesday. Police spokesman Carlos Maura said the department had yet to see the lawsuit and could not comment.

Maura said he was not aware of any investigation to find the true rapist.

Diaz, who fled Cuba in 1966, was serving a life sentence when lawyers for the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that pushes for DNA exoneration, took his case.

A frail Diaz trembled as he spoke Wednesday of his years in prison.

''They took away my liberty, but always in my heart and in my mind, I always knew that I was innocent,'' he said.

The lawsuit, filed in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County, accuses police officers of false arrest, fabricating evidence and pressuring witnesses to identify Diaz as their attacker, as well as causing him extreme and ongoing emotional. It calls for unspecified damages.

Diaz was convicted of assaults that occurred between 1977 and 1979 in the Bird Road area of Coral Gables, south of downtown Miami.

The convictions were based on identifications made by eight victims, though some of them initially described a much heavier and taller Hispanic attacker who spoke English. Diaz spoke little to no English.