On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council approved a $ 14 million settlement for Andrew Wilson, who spent more than three decades behind bars for a murder charge dropped in 2017.
Wilson was convicted of the robbery and murder of 21-year-old Christopher Hanson in 1984, but has always maintained his innocence.
His case was reviewed by the Loyola Law School Innocence Project, which raised questions about the methods used by a Los Angeles police detective to get a witness to identify Wilson as a suspect.
The verdict was overturned by a Los Angeles County judge and Wilson was released after 32 years behind bars. It was later established that he was in fact innocent of the crime.
The settlement, approved by an 11-0 vote, is the result of a 2018 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 identify Wilson. as a suspect. …
The county has paid Wilson $ 1.5 million in 2020.
In a confidential note to the City Council reviewed by The Times, the city’s lawyers expressed doubts about their ability to win in court, warning that the city’s verdict could result in $ 32 million in monetary awards.
The settlement is equivalent to approximately $ 440,000 a year in prison, the same amount as the payments approved by the council in other wrongful conviction cases, according to the lawyers’ note.
The settlement now requires the approval of the mayor.
Wilson’s case demonstrates that investigative procedures to identify suspects’ witnesses need to be reformed, his lawyers said Wednesday.
“This case emphasizes that until cities and counties introduce independent identification procedures in which investigators do not participate in the identification process itself, we will continue to issue inappropriate sentences like this one, and government agencies will bear substantial responsibility. “, – he said. Kevin LaHue, attorney for McLane, Bednarski & Litt.
Wilson’s conviction was dismissed in part due to the alleged practice of manipulating witnesses and involving witnesses identified by the Innocence Project. Erica Jerez, deputy district attorney in 2017, admitted that “cumulative errors” deprived Wilson of his constitutional right to a fair trial.
The lawsuit alleged that Marks directed a witness to a photograph of Wilson when he was shown a selection of photographs of potential suspects. The witness had already identified two other men, whom the police quickly removed from the list of suspects.
“What about him?” Marx asked the witness, referring to Wilson’s photograph.
The witness then identified Wilson.
This practice has been criticized both by the prosecutor’s office and by defense lawyers.
“You took 32 years of my life,” Wilson said in a 2018 interview. “You can’t give it back to me.”
Last week, a federal jury awarded $ 17 million in damages to the family of a mentally disabled person who was fatally injured by an off-duty LAPD officer inside Costco in Corona.
Last summer, the city awarded Gabriel Abikzer $ 23 million after he was hit by a city employee driving a truck, which resulted in both of his legs amputated.
Times contributor David Zaniser contributed to this report.