Milwaukee will pay $6.5 million to a man who was wrongfully convicted of a 1995 homicide and spent 13 years in prison before DNA linked the case to serial killer Walter Ellis, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Chaunte Ott filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit after his release in 2009, claiming that Milwaukee police detectives pressured witnesses into testifying falsely that they had been with Ott during the murder of Jessica Payne, a 16-year-old runaway.
“Our client is obviously not going to get back the 13 years that were unjustly taken from him, but we appreciate the city’s agreement to provide fair compensation,” said Jon Loevy, one of Ott’s attorneys. Ott, now 40, won his freedom with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. In 2007, it was learned that DNA taken from the Payne crime scene did not match Ott or the two men who had testified against him, both of whom later recanted. Ellis, who died in prison in 2013, never was charged with Payne’s death, though he pleaded no contest to killing seven other women. The city noted that similar wrongful conviction cases against other cities have led to jury awards of $2 million per year of imprisonment, and called the $6.5 million “less than half of a potential verdict” for Ott’s 13 years.