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December 22, 2014

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Man wrongly convicted after a DNA mix-up awarded $1.5 million

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Sheriff Doug Gillespie

Metro Police's Fiscal Affairs Committee approved a $1.5 million settlement today to the man wrongly convicted of a violent robbery after a DNA mix-up.

The committee, which oversees the department's finances, approved the settlement for Dwayne Jackson after brief testimony from Sheriff Doug Gillespie.

An accidental sample switch in Metro's forensic lab incorrectly identified then-18-year-old Jackson as the suspect in a 2001 robbery in the southeast valley. He served nearly four years in prison before his release in 2006.

Gillespie, who called the settlement amount "appropriate," said the figure was determined after discussions with Jackson's attorneys.

"I feel comfortable that they as well as us ... feel that this is a fair settlement for a man we took four years of his life," Gillespie said.

The settlement will be paid from the department's self-insured fund, which generally contains about $12 million.

The error came to light in November when the California Justice Department contacted Metro to say that an offender in its system matched the DNA profile of forensic evidence collected from a blue, hooded sweatshirt the suspect wore during the robbery. A national DNA database used by law enforcement agencies identified the match.

Police said that information triggered a seven-month process of evaluating the case and re-examining DNA evidence to confirm that a mistake had occurred.

The DNA matched Jackson's cousin, Howard Grissom, who also was considered a suspect immediately after the robbery. Grissom is serving a 41-year prison sentence in California for an unrelated crime.

The forensic scientist who handled the case, Terry Cook, is on paid administrative leave while Metro conducts an internal investigation.

The DNA mix-up discovery prompted the department to begin reanalyzing at least 200 DNA cases handled by Cook.

At the committee meeting today, Gillespie said he will keep the community informed of any changes the department makes as it evaluates its forensic lab's policies and procedures.

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  1. Sorry, Sheriff. That amount is not a fair amount for 4 years of this man's life where he lived for free, ate for free, etc. WAY TOO MUCH MONEY.

  2. An INNOCENT American was forced into jailed service for 4 years. Absolutely disgraceful. If he agreed to that amount of $1.5 million, then there must have been mitigating circumstances as to why he would not reasonably get more, in good conscience.

    Just my two cents worth.

  3. First I would like to say that it was Honorable for Mr. Gillespie to step up and declare that there was a mix up of some sort that resulted in a mans life being turned upside down, And he and others worked to right the wrong that the man had endured. I and others will always respect those that can say they were wrong when they were wrong and they work to correct it.
    Now that still doesn't mean he was not involved it simply means that the evidence was put in the wrong place, Remember he was still a suspect along with his cousin.
    I also said in a past post that there would be no law suit and I was right, There was a settlement in lieu of. Basically a Insurance claim has been paid.