A federal jury awarded a Baltimore man $15 million after he spent more than two decades wrongly incarcerated for murder.
Sabein Burgess sued the Baltimore Police Department and two detectives for his wrongful conviction for the 1994 murder of his then-girlfriend Michelle Dyson, according to the Baltimore Sun. Burgess was released from prison in 2015 when the state conceded that he did not commit the crime.
In October 1994, Police responded to an emergency call and found Burgess cradling his girlfriend’s body after she had been shot and immediately took Burgess into custody. He was interrogated for hours, did not confess and was eventually released, but detectives charged him with murder after gunshot residue was found on his hands.
Burgess’ lawyers explained that scientific tests show that gunpowder residue could linger in the air or be transferred through touching, but the investigators wouldn’t listen. In his lawsuit, Burgess said that two Baltimore policemen, Gerald Goldstein and Steven Lehman, pinned the murder on him even though they had credible evidence that someone else committed the crime.
It turns out that the FBI had contacted the detectives and told them that they were investigating a hitman named Howard Rice. The killer told the agents that Dyson was killed over a botched drug deal and that he knew who killed her, but the detectives never looked into it.
Then Burgess’ mother received a letter from someone who confessed that he, along with the same hitman, Howard Rice, had killed Dyson, but the detectives didn’t bother to investigate it. The detectives also received a call from Dyson’s father, who said that Dyson had been nervous in the days before the shooting because someone named “Little Man” was trying to kill her, but ... you know.
“Little Man” is the street name for Howard Rice.
Rice died in 1999 and is suspected of as many as seven murders. Despite the fact that multiple people had informed the two now-retired detectives that Rice killed Dyson, he was never investigated by the Baltimore Police Department.
Burgess did not seek a specific amount of money in his lawsuit. After he was awarded $15 million, he said, “Finally, justice has been served.” Burgess added, “It wasn’t about the money. It was about wanting the truth to come out.”
Read more at the Baltimore Sun.