A gay man has been awarded $13.2 million by a federal court after jurors determined he had been imprisoned for a murder he didn’t commit.
In 2000, David Ayers, 56, was found guilty of murdering Dorothy Brown, who had been found dead in her Cleveland apartment. Brown, 76, had been discovered naked from the waist down and with pubic hair in her mouth.
The Cleveland Police Department pursued Ayers (right) as a suspect, despite the fact that he was gay and DNA tests showed the hair wasn’t his. (At trial, officers dismissed the test results, saying “pubic hairs are everywhere.”)
The polices maintained Ayers had implicated himself in the crime, and detectives got a jailhouse informant to testify Ayers had confessed to him. The police report suggests anti-gay bias informed their decision to pursue Ayers:
“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.”
On Friday, a jury ruled that detectives Michael Cipo and Denise Kovach violated Ayers’ civil rights by withholding evidence and falsifying testimony: “They manipulated the evidence, and didn’t look at anyone else except the most convenient suspect to convict,” said one juror. “The word ‘railroaded’ was thrown around the jury room during deliberations.” (Cipo and Kovach are currently retired with full benefits.)
Since he began serving a life sentence in 2000, Ayers lost both of his parents. “This should have been stopped a long time ago,” Ayers told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “My goal is that it never happens to anyone else ever again.”