Los Angeles city council on Wednesday approved a $ 14 million settlement for Andrew Wilson, who had spent more than three decades behind bars for a murder conviction that was released in 2017.
Wilson was convicted of the robbery and murder of 21-year-old Christopher Hanson in 1984, but always protested his innocence.
His case was picked up by the Loyola Law School Innocence Project, which raised questions about the methods a Los Angeles police detective used to get a witness to identify Wilson as a suspect.
The conviction was overturned by a Los Angeles County judge and Wilson was released after 32 years behind bars. It later turned out that he was actually innocent in the act.
The settlement, which was accepted 11-0, came from a civil rights lawsuit filed by Wilson against the city, Los Angeles County and Richard Marks, the LAPD detective who oversaw the case, regarding the methods used to target Wilson identify as a suspect.
The county agreed to $ 1.5 million with Wilson in 2020.
In a confidential memo to the city council that was reviewed by the Times, the city’s attorneys expressed doubts about its ability to win in court and warned that a verdict against the city could cost up to $ 32 million could pull itself.
The settlement equates to around $ 440,000 per year of incarceration, an amount similar to payments approved by the council in other wrongful convictions cases, lawyers said in the memo.
The settlement now requires the mayor’s approval.
Wilson’s case shows that investigative procedures for identifying suspects through witnesses need to be reformed, his lawyers said on Wednesday.
“This case shows that we will continue to face unlawful convictions like these and that government agencies will continue to face significant liability until cities and counties put in place independent identification procedures that do not involve investigators in the identification process itself. Kevin LaHue, attorney at McLane, Bednarski & Litt.” .
Wilson’s conviction has been overturned in part because of alleged witness manipulation and testimony practices brought to light by the Innocence Project. Erika Jerez, a 2017 assistant prosecutor, admitted that “cumulative errors” deprived Wilson of his constitutional right to a fair trial.
The lawsuit alleged that Marks referred a witness to a photograph of Wilson when he was shown a photographic statement of potential suspects. The witness had already identified two other men who were quickly ruled out as suspects by the police.
“What about him?” Marks asked the witness, referring to Wilson’s photo.
The witness then identified Wilson.
The practice has come under fire from both prosecutors and defense lawyers.
“You took 32 years of my life away from me,” Wilson said in a 2018 interview. “You can’t give that back to me.”
Wilson’s $ 14 million settlement isn’t the first eight-digit deal the city has hit in recent years. Last summer, the city awarded Gabriel Abikzer $ 23 million after he was hit by a city worker behind the wheel of a truck, which resulted in the amputation of both of his legs.
The author David Zahniser contributed to this report.