CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The Innocence Project and Cincinnati law firm Gerhardstein & Branch have negotiated a settlement with the City of Cincinnati for an audit of Cincinnati Police Department’s DNA-based homicide cases.
The settlement will allow independent investigators to review the cases.
The agreement was reached in a civil rights suit filed on behalf of a wrongfully imprisoned man.
According to the Innocence Project, this marks the first time that a police department has agreed to turn over years of DNA database reports and homicide case records to determine whether DNA evidence identifying alternate suspects was properly disclosed.
The Innocence Project says in June 2015, 26-year old Joshua Maxton was arrested for the murder of an 18-year-old woman who was shot and killed while sitting in a parked car in North Avondale.
Maxton was charged with murder and jailed for a year before trial. He maintained his innocence, turned down plea offers, and was unanimously acquitted by a jury in June 2016, they said.
According to the Innocence Project, in the middle of Maxton’s trial, his defense attorneys learned that the Cincinnati Police Department had been notified seven months earlier while Maxton was in jail, that key DNA evidence found at the crime scene yielded a DNA databank “hit” on an alternate suspect: Dante Foggie.
Under the settlement agreement, the audit team will conduct a comprehensive investigation into a subset of homicide cases to determine whether DNA database evidence obtained by the CPD was properly disclosed to convicted persons.
“This settlement is historic. It acknowledges that Josh Maxton sat in jail for more than seven months on a wrongful murder charge, even after police were notified of DNA evidence that supported his longtime claim of innocence,” Nina Morrison, Senior Litigation Counsel for the Innocence Project said in a news release. “It also provides a novel and rigorous process to determine if other innocent people in Cincinnati were convicted of crimes they did not commit. Ultimately, this settlement is a powerful tool that protects public safety in Cincinnati -- since any undisclosed DNA database ‘hit’ may well mean that the real perpetrator of a crime was identified, but never brought to justice.”
The audit will cover cases from June 2011 to June 2018.