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84-year-old man exonerated after 46 years in prison sues Cleveland for withholding evidence in wife's murder case

Posted at 5:50 PM, Feb 14, 2022

CLEVELAND — Isaiah Andrews, 84, who was exonerated of his wife's murder last fall after spending 46 years in prison, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Cleveland in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Ohio Monday.

"He deserves an acknowledgment from the government actors who put him in prison for decades that what happened to him was wrong," said his attorney, Sarah Gelsomino. Andrews was unavailable for an interview due to ongoing health problems.

The lawsuit

The lawsuit alleges Cleveland police withheld critical evidence about Regina Andrews' murder on September 18, 1974.

It says Cleveland detectives failed to share information that another suspect, Willie Watts, was initially arrested for the crime.

Watts was released after providing an alibi for the time of death, which was later determined to be "uncertain."

Watts died in 2011, according to court records.

The Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) made the discovery about Watts' arrest after filing a motion for DNA testing.

"I was blown away," said Brian Howe, the OIP attorney who filed the request for DNA testing. "I can’t think of a more egregious case of covering up evidence of innocence in any case I’ve worked on."

"The only thing that we had about the case was what was in the trial transcripts and there’s no mention in the trial transcripts that anyone else had even been investigated," he said. "It’s hard to overstate how important that would have been to a fair trial in 1974."

The retrial

The evidence led to a retrial.

Andrews was found not guilty of his wife's murder last October. The not guilty verdict was unanimous.

Despite the deaths of six of the prosecution's original witnesses and missing pieces of evidence, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office still retried Andrews.

"It’s gross and it’s disgusting," said Marcus Sidoti, Andrews' defense attorney, about the decision to retry the case.

When asked about the decision, a spokesperson for the office of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley declined to comment.

Andrews' body, wrapped in linens from three different hotels, was discovered near a parking lot of the Forest Hills Park swimming pool in East Cleveland, according to court records.

News 5 reached out to the City of Cleveland about the lawsuit. We have yet to receive a response.

RELATED: Man retried for murdering his wife in 1974 found not guilty

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