A US federal court has awarded a gay man $13.2 million after it recognized that he had been wrongfully imprisoned for a murder he did not commit.
David Ayers, now 56, was accused of murder by the Cleveland Police Department after Dorothy Brown, a 76 year old public housing resident, was found dead in 1999.
Ayers had for eight years been employed as a security officer by the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority which housed Brown before he was accused of her murder after he was the last known person to have seen her alive.
Brown was found in a pool of her own blood, naked from the waste down, with pubic hair in her mouth – suggesting she had been sexually assaulted – but despite the fact that he was gay and that a DNA test of one of the pubic hairs was found to not match his, police officers decided to pursue him as their suspect.
Ayers’ lawyers, Russell Ainsworth and Rachel Steinback of civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law also allege that an anti-gay bias by the investigating police officers contributed to their singling him out as a suspect.
A February 9, 2000 police report written by Cleveland Police Department Officer Denise Kovach repeatedly ponders Ayers and Ayers’ friends’ sexuality.
‘This male appeared very “gay” like, but when we asked him if he was gay, he laughed and stated no .... But this male acted very 'gay like', also had candles lit up around his house and religious statues and holy water in cups,’ the officer wrote.
‘[Friend] Ken Smith is also a hairdresser and dressed and sat like a gay male. Note: David Ayres [sic] gives quite an impression of also being gay.’
Ayers’ lawsuit argued that the investigating officers, ‘had no reason to suspect Mr. Ayers of having murdered Ms. Brown,’ but had pursued him as their suspect anyway.
‘Ayers was innocent and had nothing to do with the crime. Moreover, as a gay man, Mr. Ayers did not fit the profile of the killer in the case, given the obvious sexual nature in which the victim had been attacked. Nevertheless, [the officers] ... became resolved to prove that Mr. Ayers committed the crime.’
During the week long trial in 2000 one of the investigating officers, Denise Kovach, had argued that the pubic hair in Brown’s mouth had not been relevant evidence to disqualify Ayers because ‘pubic hairs are everywhere.’
Instead the officers falsely claimed that Ayers had implicated himself in the crime to them and convinced a jail house snitch who had been housed with him to testify that Ayers had confessed to him.
Both the officers who framed him retired with full benefits, while he lost both his father and mother in jail and was unable to attend their funerals.
Ayers was given a life sentence in December of 2000 and had expected to die in jail.