Police framed Donald Eugene Gates for the 1981 rape and murder of Catherine T. Schilling in Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., and he was sentenced in 1982 to life in prison. In 2009, after Gates had spent 27 years behind bars for the crime, DNA evidence cleared him of the Georgetown University student's death. On Wednesday the District of Columbia agreed to pay Gates $16.65 million—$617,000 for every year he spent in prison.
"I'm absolutely elated. The only thing I can do is thank the Lord," Gates, 64, who now lives in Knoxville, Tenn., told the Washington Post. "I'm hoping the message goes around the country: You can't violate a black man or black woman's civil rights, or no American citizen's civil rights, anywhere. That's what I hope."
According to the Post, jurors found that detectives involved in the case lied about "their handling of paid informants, witness interviews and photo identifications, among other procedures."
The settlement includes a clause that doesn't allow the city to attempt to recoup the nearly $1.4 million Gates has already received from the U.S. government for his wrongful imprisonment. The Post notes that the District and federal settlements bring Gates' combined total compensation to about $18 million.
"No amount of money can compensate Mr. Gates for his loss of freedom," D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine said in a statement viewed by the Post. "Mr. Gates has shown extraordinary fortitude and dignity, and we wish him well as he proceeds with his life."
Read more at the Washington Post.