The City of Cleveland is appealing a Cuyahoga County judge's decision demanding it pays a wrongfully imprisoned man $13.2 million for the time he spent in prison. But as the legal battle draws on, interest is accruing on the award, and taxpayers will ultimately be responsible for the bill.
"Do the right thing [City of Cleveland]," said David Ayers, who spent 11 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit. "Correct your mistake because you were wrong. You had an innocent man put away for no reason."
A jury sentenced Ayers to life in prison in 1999 for the murder of 76-year-old Dorothy Brown, a resident in a Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority apartment building where Ayers worked as a security guard. That's after two Cleveland police detectives arrested him based on weak, circumstantial evidence. Brown was found beaten to death.
"I didn't kill Dorothy," he said. "I didn't kill anybody."
DNA evidence eventually validated Ayers' claim of innocence. He became a free man in 2011.
Soon after, he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the detectives. A grand jury awarded him $13.2 million in 2013, but the question remained as to who was supposed to pay: the remaining detective, as the other had passed, or the city.
In October, a county judge ruled it's the city's responsibility.
"They're going to have to do the right thing and compensate me," said Ayers.
So far, the city has not compensated Ayers. It's appealing the judge's decision all while interest accrues on the money he has yet to receive. Ayers' attorney estimates that interest to be at about $1.5 million and counting with taxpayers eventually footing the bill.