by Derek Gilna
A man who was wrongfully accused, convicted, and imprisoned because of the alleged misconduct of four San Francisco police officers who fabricated and withheld evidence to frame him for a 2007 murder, has been awarded $10 million by a federal jury.
Jamal Trulove had been accused of killing his friend, Seu Kuka, convicted of the crime in California state court, and sentenced to a 50-year sentence. However, that conviction was set aside by the state appeals court, based upon prosecutorial misconduct.
The prosecutor told the jury that Trulove had threatened the life of the only eyewitness to the crime — who initially wavered on his identification of Trulove as the offender — for testifying against him.
A second trial of Trulove in 2015 resulted in an acquittal.
Trulove then filed a federal civil rights suit against the four San Francisco police officers involved in his prosecution, and on April 6, 2018, a federal jury found that two principal homicide inspectors, Michael Johnson and Maureen D’Amico, had fabricated incriminating evidence, as well as withhold exculpatory evidence. The other two officers were not found to be responsible for any wrongdoing.
Trulove had alleged that D’Amico manipulated a photo array to suggest that Trulove was the only plausible suspect, even though D’Amico knew that there were other possible suspects whom the police never investigated. According to court testimony, that officer asked the witness, “Are you sure it wasn’t Jamal Trulove.”
At his civil trial, Trulove told the jury about the experience of being in prison for a crime he knew he did not commit, “the fear from the time you get up ... the daily humiliation,” and his isolation from his family. Kat Chatfield, one of his civil trial attorneys, said Truelove was moved by the jury’s award, adding, “It’s about time, justice is not (merely) being acquitted for a crime you did not do. This was finally justice.”
The attorneys representing the city of San Francisco did not attempt to excuse the conduct of the two officers, but instead claimed that city prosecutors had been unaware of the officers’ “coercive and suggestive conduct” when they decided to prosecute Truelove.
John Cote, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said he was disappointed by the verdict, adding that, “We are analyzing the jury’s findings and will determine from there how to proceed. Our goal is always to ensure that justice is served.”
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