Nov 23, 2015
A federal jury ruled in favor of Donald Eugene Gates in his civil lawsuit against District of Columbia police. Gates spent 27 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of a Georgetown University student, Catherine Schilling. Gates was exonerated in 2009 after DNA tests pinned the crimes on another man.
In the lawsuit, Gates’ attorneys showed two DC detectives, Ronald Taylor and Norman Brooks, paid an informant, Gerald Max Smith, $1,300 to falsely claim Gates confessed to the crimes. Smith at the time had two felony convictions and was facing a third for a purse-snatching in the area where Schilling was murdered. The cops withheld the information regarding Smith’s past criminal record and impending trial from Gates’ defense attorneys. The charge against Smith was dropped in exchange for his testimony against Gates.
Gates’ conviction was also based on false testimony from an FBI forensic analyst, Michael Malone, who testified that a hair sample taken from Gates was “microscopically indistinguishable” from hairs found on Schilling’s body.
An internal FBI investigation later showed Malone’s testimony did not match his notes in the case. The investigation also showed that not only Malone, but other FBI analysts made similarly false and misleading reports in cases around the country.
Following the verdict, the District agreed to award Gates a 16.5 million dollar settlement. In his case, Gates at least received something for the 27 years of hard time he spent in prison because police schemed to get a conviction. But his case shows the kind of “justice” the poor routinely receive in the U.S.