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Gay Man Wins $13 Million Verdict

By Charlotte Robinson, March 11, 2013
David Ayers spent eleven & a half years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Cleveland police reports suggest the arrest was motivated by anti-gay animus. An example of the Feb 9th 2000 police report refers to friends of Ayers & Ayers himself, as gay: "This male appeared very 'gay' like, but when we asked him if he was gay, he laughed & stated no.... But this male acted very 'gay like', also had candles lit up around his house & religious statues & holy water in cups... KEN SMITH is also a hairdresser & dressed & sat like a gay male. Note: DAVID AYRES [sic] gives quite an impression of also being gay." A federal jury returned what is probably the largest-ever civil rights verdict for this court -- $13.21 million for the wrongful prosecution & imprisonment of David Ayers. Ayers, 56, is an African American gay man & native of Cleveland who at the time of his 1999 arrest had been employed for over eight years as a security officer with the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. He had no prior arrests & had no physical evidence linking him to the crime but was charged & eventually sentenced to life in prison for the 1999 murder of an elderly CMHA resident, Dorothy Brown. Ms. Brown's body was found in a pool of blood, naked from the waist down, with pubic hairs in her mouth. One of the pubic hairs was later DNA tested & found to not match Ayers, leading to his exoneration & release in 2011.  Knowing that their "evidence" was too weak to convict Ayers, police officers Kovach & Cipo enlisted a jail-house snitch, Donald Hutchinson, who had been housed with Ayers at Cuyahoga County Jail, to falsely claim that Ayers confessed to him. Kovach & Cipo also falsely claimed that Ayers implicated himself to them shortly after his arrest. Both Kovach & Cipo retired from Cleveland Police Department will full benefits. The verdict award is among the top ten ever in the country for a wrongful conviction case. Ayers was represented by Russell Ainsworth & Rachel Steinback of the Chicago-based civil rights firm Loevy & LoevyAttorneys at Law.

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