Friday, May 7, 2010

Court upholds finding that police framed Kevin Fox in rape-murder of daughter, Riley Fox, 3

While the majority of our stories show that the police do indeed get it right, we also need to highlight the fact when they not only get it wrong, but intentionally do so. Congratulations to Mr. Fox on being cleared of this. He lost his daughter, and then had to suffer the indignity of being jailed for 5 months.

An appeals court Wednesday agreed with a federal jury's 2007 finding that Will County police framed Kevin Fox for the rape and murder of his 3-year-old daughter Riley, but reduced the damages awarded to Fox and his wife from $12.2 million to $8 million.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals chastised the investigators on the case, implying that their decision to quickly rule out Riley's 2004 death as the work of a sexual predator was "absurd."

The court, in a 52-page decision by Judge Terence Evans, also found that detectives lacked probable cause to arrest Fox using the "exceedingly weak evidence" they had assembled.

Fox was arrested four months after the death of his daughter, who was sexually assaulted, bound with duct tape and drowned in a Wilmington creek. Fox gave police a videotaped confession that he said was fabricated. The videotape was not shown during the civil trial.

Shortly after Fox's arrest, Edward Hayes, a detective supervisor, called the FBI and told them to stop testing DNA evidence, trial evidence showed. Testing by a private lab later ruled out Fox as a suspect, and he was released in 2005 after eight months behind bars.

On Wednesday, the appeals court upheld the 2007 jury verdict, but found that its awards for Fox's false-arrest claim and his wife Melissa's claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress were excessive.

The jury's original award of $15.5 million in damages had already been reduced.

"We thought it was a stunning rebuke of the defendant's entire case," said Kathleen Zellner, the Foxes' attorney. "I don't think we could have got a better result."

Zellner said the couple still live in Will County with their teenage son and a daughter who recently turned 4.

In a statement, the Will County state's attorney's office said it was pleased that the damages were reduced but "firmly" believes the deputies had probable cause to arrest Fox and should not be liable for any damages.

No other arrests have been made in the case, which is being handled by Will County with help from the FBI.