This report is infuriating.
A man who successfully fought to have two murder convictions overturned, was pardoned by the governor and won a $6 million judgment for civil rights violations by a Durham police detective will likely never see most of the money after the Durham City Council decided it won’t pay.
Darryl Howard couldn’t believe it when told the city wouldn’t indemnify retired detective Darrell Dowdy, meaning it wouldn’t pay the jury’s judgment. The determination is particularly concerning and confusing since the city paid millions of dollars for attorneys who attacked Howard’s character during the trial, Howard and his attorney said.
. . .
On Dec. 1 a federal jury awarded Howard $6 million after finding Dowdy fabricated evidence and performed an inadequate investigation that led to Howard being wrongly convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of arson.
After a nearly month-long trial, it took the jury about an hour to reach a decision.
The city has spent more than $4 million on litigation against Howard. Legal expenses have been paid out of a fund for uninsured legal liabilities.
Howard and his attorney said the city, which employed Dowdy for 36 years, gave the detective the power that led to Howard spending over two decades incarcerated after a Durham County jury found him guilty of killing Doris Washington, 29, and her 13-year-old daughter, Nishonda, in 1991.
In a move that Howard’s and Dowdy’s attorneys described as unprecedented, the Durham City Council decided in a series of closed session meetings not to pay the judgment on Dowdy’s behalf.
In legal filings, the city has also indicated it will ask Howard to pay the legal fees of two city employees who were dismissed from the lawsuit.
There’s more at the link.
The city appears to be relying on a tangled web of legal arguments in refusing to pay the judgment against it. Nevertheless, the basic facts are inescapable. The wrong man was convicted of a crime, and spent almost a quarter of a century in prison, because of the false statements made by a city policeman. When, after exoneration, he sued for damages, the city spent almost $4 million defending itself and the employees who had acted on its behalf in convicting him. Now that a federal court has found them, and their employer, liable for their misdeeds, the city is saying, in so many words, “If they’d acted correctly, we’d have accepted liability for their actions and paid up; but, since they acted wrongly, we won’t accept liability for their actions.” This, after spending that much on their mutual defense???
There should be one standard for liability across all police actions, but in this case that appears to be conspicuous by its absence. This appears to be yet another example of “one law for the rich, and another for the poor”. Mr. Howard may not have been a particularly savory character in his younger days, but a wrongful conviction is a wrongful conviction. If the rule of law is to have any meaning at all, he should be compensated for what that wrongful conviction has cost him. As far as I’m concerned, that cost should be borne by the entity whose employees, acting on its behalf, manipulated his trial to wrongfully convict him. What say you, readers?