Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gay Cleveland man awarded $13.2m after two cops, Denise Kovach, Michael Cipo, framed him for rape, murder of woman; lawyer: antigay animus made him focus of investigation

David Ayers, who in 1999 was a security officer at the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, and who spent 11.5 years in prison for murder, was Friday awarded one of the largest awards for wrongful conviction in US history.
     Ayers lost both of his parents while in prison and could not attend their funerals. The two detectives who framed him have retired with full benefits. Their misconduct (including allegedly providing a jailhouse "informant" with undisclosed information about the case) will cost Cleveland taxpayers $13.2 million, since the city is self-insured. This doesn't include money subsequently spent defending the detectives' misconduct in court or the cost to Ohio taxpayers of incarcerating Ayers for almost 12 years.
     Ayers was sent to prison in 2000. Here's how the Ohio Innocence Project freed him:
     The Ohio Innocence Project filed a motion for DNA testing on February 27, 2008, but prosecutors repeatedly opposed the testing. In the middle of a renewed battle over DNA testing in the trial court, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Ayers’ conviction and remanded the case back to state court for a new trial. This was the result of almost 11 years of litigation by the Cuyahoga County Public Defender.
     The Sixth Circuit found that the jailhouse informant’s story was, “both inconsistent and unreliable,” and evidence suggested that, at a minimum, police shared information with the jailhouse informant. The Sixth Circuit also found that because the jailhouse informant and the State were working together, the information that the jailhouse informant “got” after being returned to the jail with Ayers, violated Ayers’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
     After Ayers was awarded a new trial, the newly assigned prosecutor sent all of the evidence from the crime scene – including the pubic hairs, the rape kit, and the bloody towel – to the county crime lab. When DNA testing excluded Ayers, the prosecutor elected to dismiss the charges against him.  The case was dismissed without prejudice on September 12, 2011 and Ayers walked out of jail a free man.
In March, 2012, Ayers filed a civil rights lawsuit against Cleveland, the county housing authority, and six cops. All suits except those against three of the police officers were dismissed by a judge who decided Ayer's rights weren't violated by the defendants. One of the three police officers not cleared, settled out of court. On Friday, a federal jury decided that the other two, Cleveland police detectives Denise Kovach and Michael Cipo, coerced and falsified testimony and withheld evidence that pointed to Ayers' innocence, and awarded him $13.2 million. Here is what Gay Star News wrote about police bias in the case:
     A February 9, 2000 police report written by Cleveland Police Department Officer Denise Kovach repeatedly ponders Ayers and Ayers’ friends’ sexuality.
     ‘This male appeared very “gay” like, but when we asked him if he was gay, he laughed and stated no .... But this male acted very 'gay like', also had candles lit up around his house and religious statues and holy water in cups,’ the officer wrote.
     ‘[Friend] Ken Smith is also a hairdresser and dressed and sat like a gay male. Note: David Ayres [sic] gives quite an impression of also being gay.’
     Ayers’ lawsuit argued that the investigating officers, ‘had no reason to suspect Mr. Ayers of having murdered Ms. Brown,’ but had pursued him as their suspect anyway.
     ‘Ayers was innocent and had nothing to do with the crime. Moreover, as a gay man, Mr. Ayers did not fit the profile of the killer in the case, given the obvious sexual nature in which the victim had been attacked. Nevertheless, [the officers] ... became resolved to prove that Mr. Ayers committed the crime.’
     During the week long trial in 2000 one of the investigating officers, Denise Kovach, had argued that the pubic hair in Brown’s mouth had not been relevant evidence to disqualify Ayers because ‘pubic hairs are everywhere.’
     Instead the officers falsely claimed that Ayers had implicated himself in the crime to them and convinced a jail house snitch who had been housed with him to testify that Ayers had confessed to him.
Here is the news report from 2011 of Ayer's release from prison:

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