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A fifty-six-year-old Ohio man was exonerated after spending 13 years in confinement for murder. He cried as a federal jury found that two Cleveland police detectives violated his civil rights by coercing and falsifying testimony and withholding evidence that pointed to his innocence on Friday. The verdict also included $13.2 million for Ayers’ pain and suffering. The verdict ends the legal battle Ayers has been fighting since his arrest in 1999.
Ayers was released from prison in 2011 after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reversed his conviction and the state decided not to seek another trial. “This should have been stopped a long time ago,” Ayers told the Cleveland Plain Dealer after the jury’s verdict Friday. “My goal is that it never happens to anyone else ever again.” Ayers filed the lawsuit against six Cleveland police officers, the city, and they county housing authority in March 2012. The judge dropped allegations against three of the officers, the city, and the house authority, citing that their roles did not violate Ayers’ rights. One of the remaining officers settled out of court with Ayers for an undisclosed amount.
The Friday verdict was against Michael Cipo and Denise Kovach, who were the lead investigators in the case. Among the most serious allegations by Ayers against Kovach and Cipo were that the two detectives conspired with each other to fabricate a confession that he never made, coerced a friend of Ayers to lie by saying that Ayers had told him of the murder before Brown’s body was discovered, and gave key information about the crime to Ayers’ prison cellmate so he could later testify against Ayers about an admission he didn’t make. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that attorney Rachel Steinback of Chicago, who represented Ayers, said the city is self-insured so the award will come from taxpayer money, not an insurance company.