Monday, March 23, 2009

Man imprisoned falsely for rape set for settlement

Convicted at the age of 17, and released at age 36, Dennis Patrick Brown spent over half of his life in prison for a crime he didn't commit. He is being compensated, but how can you compensate someone for nineteen years? How can you compensation someone for the lost possibilities that life would have offered?

19 years in prison for committing no crime.

COVINGTON — A man who spent 19 years in prison for a rape he did not commit is set to receive $1.4 million in the settlement of a federal lawsuit filed against the city.

The Covington City Council approved a $300,000 promissory note to Dennis Patrick Brown, whose 1985 conviction for aggravated rape was overturned in 2004 after DNA evidence conclusively showed he could not have committed the crime.

The $300,000, which will be paid to Brown in 10 annual installments of $30,000, plus $1.1 million from the city's insurers, will be used to settle the suit Brown filed in October 2005, City Council members said Friday.

Brown sued the city and former city police officers, alleging civil rights violations, after his release from Louisiana State Penitentiary and the dismissal of the charges against him by the district attorney's office.

One of Brown's attorneys, William E. Rittenberg of New Orleans, declined to discuss details of the pending settlement.

"Anything he gets will not be too much for spending 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit," Rittenberg said.

Brown, now 41 and living in near Covington, was in prison from age 17 until his release at age 36.
Covington police arrested Brown in September 1984 after a woman reported being raped at knifepoint in her home. Based on her description, police sketched an image of a suspect with a bandanna covering all but his eyes. She later picked Brown out of a lineup and identified him at trial as her attacker.

Brown denied the attack, testifying that police had threatened him with a knife to gain a confession.

He was sentenced to life in prison.

The Innocence Project of New Orleans secured a court order to test blood, semen and clothing found at the scene of the rape.

Two tests of the evidence excluded Brown as the rapist.