Defendants wrongly accused of crimes can suffer consequences reserved for criminals. A 51-year-old Maryland man recently won a $2.3 million civil judgment against a trio of Baltimore police officers and the city's ex-mayor. The man had been dubbed the "Charles Village Rapist" for 2008 sexual assaults DNA evidence showed he did not commit.
The jury award for civil rights' violations came nearly six years after the man was freed from jail, where he had spent more than a year. Police obtained DNA evidence in June 2008, the first month a series of rapes were reported in Mount Vernon and Charles Village. However, it wasn't until July 2009 when police dropped the allegations and released the defendant.
The plaintiff's attorney stated, the defendant feared for his life during the long, unnecessary period of forced incarceration. During those months, the media and Baltimore officers had already called the man a serial rapist, a potentially life-threatening label when a defendant is behind bars.
The lawsuit stated the defendants violated the man's civil rights. The complaint also accused officers of forcing a rape victim to identify the defendant through trickery by maneuvering mugshots. The victim did not hear the defendant speak or see him in a lineup, which she told police were necessary to provide a positive identification.
The unfairly-jailed man received far less than the $10 million he sought in the legal action. The jury award was split into two parts with punitive damages – added punishment for egregious defendant behavior -- making up $1.5 million of the judgment. City officials have already promised to resurrect the case by filing motions and appealing the decision.
Proof that police mishandled an arrest or engaged in misconduct can be used by criminal defense attorneys to help to free any criminal defendant. Tainted evidence or testimony can be thrown out of court by a judge, effectively gutting a prosecutor's case.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Federal jury awards $2.3M to man accused as Charles Village Rapist," Doug Donovan, April. 21, 2015