Cleveland Settles With David Ayers 20 Years After Wrongful Conviction

photo of cleveland city hall
The City of Cleveland won a decision earlier this year in the Ohio Supreme Court freeing it from an earlier $13 million judgement. David Ayers' lawyers argued in court that state law and the collective bargaining agreement with city police required they pay. [Matthew Richmond / ideatream]
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The City of Cleveland has agreed to pay $4.85 million to David Ayers, 20 years after he was wrongfully convicted of murder.

The city tucked the settlement announcement into its daily coronavirus press release Monday night. The judgement appears to bring to a close a decades-long saga for Ayers.

On Dec. 11, 2000, a Cuyahoga County jury found Ayers guilty of aggravated robbery, burglary and the aggravated murder of 76-year-old Dorothy Brown. At the time of Brown’s death, Ayers worked as a Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority police officer and lived in the building where Brown was killed.

The conviction was based on testimony from a jailhouse informant and fabricated evidence. Ayers was sentenced to life in prison.

The efforts of the Ohio Innocence Project and DNA testing conducted in 2011 cleared Ayers of the crime and he was released from prison. Two years later, a federal jury awarded him $13.2 million in his lawsuit against the city and found the two detectives involved in the case, Michael Cipo and Denise Kovach, liable for Ayers’ wrongful conviction.

The city argued successfully it was not responsible for paying the judgement, taking their case all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court in March of this year, and the payment was left to the officers. Cipo died before paying any of the judgement and Kovach filed for bankruptcy, with the help of a city law department attorney.

Ayers eventually filed a new lawsuit in Cuyahoga County, arguing that the city violated state law and its collective bargaining agreement with rank-and-file officers by not agreeing to pay the judgement against the two officers.

That case remained open when the city announced the settlement with Ayers.

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