Jul 18, 2022 - News

Exonerated man wins $7.5M over faked evidence

In this illustration, a plastic baggie is labeled with the word "evidence" as a police badge rests inside.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

City Council approved a $7.5 million settlement last week to a man who spent 25 years behind bars for a murder he didn't commit.

Driving the news: Desmond Ricks, 56, received the news 30 years after he claimed police switched bullets to pin him to a 1992 murder outside a westside restaurant, the AP reported.

How it happened: U of M's law school’s Michigan Innocence Clinic first asked a judge for new tests on evidence and to throw out Ricks' second-degree murder conviction in 2016, per the AP.

  • Examinations showed the actual bullets still in Detroit police storage did not match the gun identified as the weapon in the shooting.
  • Ricks was exonerated and released in 2017 after the prosecution joined the Innocence Clinic's motion to vacate his convictions, claiming police fabricated ballistics evidence in order to frame Ricks.

Details: The only evidence linking Ricks to the murder was the falsified police report of former detectives David Pauch and Donald Stawiasz, the Detroit News reported.

  • The now-retired detectives were either incompetent or lied in firearms test to frame Ricks, the lawsuit claimed.
  • Ricks' murder conviction was based in large part on bullets processed by the Detroit Police Crime Lab, which closed in 2008 after a Michigan State Police audit found widespread errors in ballistic testing.

What they're saying: It's legally too late to hold the retired detectives accountable, Innocence Clinic director David Moran told BridgeDetroit.

  • "I actually contacted the Michigan Attorney General's office about the potential criminal liability of the people in the Detroit Crime Lab…" Moran said. "I was told that the statute of limitations had expired and nothing that could be done criminally to hold them accountable."
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