Alan Newton, a Bronx man imprisoned 21 years for rape before being cleared by DNA evidence, was awarded $18.5 million by a New York jury Tuesday, reports the city’s Times. It was one of the largest jury awards ever to a wrongfully incarcerated person in New York City. Convicted in 1985 based largely on eyewitness testimony, Newton spent years fighting to have DNA evidence from the case located and tested. A rape kit from the case was found in a police warehouse in 2005, about a decade after Newton and his lawyers had requested it, and subsequent testing showed that DNA collected from the victim did not match.
Newton, now 49, was released from prison in 2006. On Tuesday, a jury ruled that the city had violated his constitutional rights, and found two police officers liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress for failing to produce Newton's evidence when requested. Newton's lawyer, John F. Schutty III, keyed on the Police Department's shoddy system for storing and keeping track of post-conviction evidence, which until recently was registered and tracked strictly by paper and pen. The case was supported by the Innocence Project, which said that of about 50 people from New York City it had represented in the last five years, half had received the DNA evidence in their cases from the city. In the other cases, the city was unable to produce the evidence or explain what had happened to it.