After 26 years behind bars, man settles for $2.5 million

By Ed White
Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) — The city of Detroit has agreed to pay $2.5 million to a man who spent 26 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit, according to his attorney.
Walter Swift’s attorney, Julie Hurwitz, said the deal will allow him to heal, especially from substance abuse linked to his wrongful conviction and nearly three decades behind bars.

Nonetheless, she called the agreement a “travesty” because she believes Detroit should be willing to pay more to make up for police misconduct that spoiled the investigation.

“They should be doing the right thing,” Hurwitz told The Associated Press. “They should publicly apologize to him and compensate him at least reasonably if not fully.”

John Roach, a spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan, declined to comment. The deal requires approval from the City Council.

Swift was released in 2008 after prosecutors backed away from his 1982 conviction. He was found guilty of raping a Detroit woman based on police misconduct and a bad trial lawyer. Evidence that would have helped him never got to the jury.

He finally was cleared with the assistance of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Benjamin N. Cardozo law school in New York.

Hurwitz said Swift accepted Detroit’s settlement offer because a trial and any appeals could have brought years of uncertainty.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in 2010 and has had many delays, some due to the city’s bankruptcy.

“We were chomping at the bit to take the case to trial. But this is a man who would not survive another trial,” Hurwitz said. “We had to do what was in the best interest of our client. This is what he needs right now.” One-third of the settlement will go to Swift’s lawyers.

Hurwitz said Swift hopes to start an organization to help people who are wrongly convicted.