Judge awards $13 million to exonerated D.C. man

WASHINGTON (AP) — A judge has awarded $13.2 million to a man who was convicted of murder in Washington and spent 28 years in prison based on forensic hair analysis that was later discredited.

D.C. Superior Court Judge John Mott awarded the money last Friday to 55-year-old Santae Tribble, who was convicted in the 1978 slaying of a taxi driver, The Washington Post reported. Trimble was exonerated in 2012 and released after DNA analysis revealed that hairs found near the scene of the crime were not his.

Tribble is the third District of Columbia man who has received a multimillion-dollar judgment in his favor after being wrongly convicted based on hair analysis. The D.C.

Public Defender Service uncovered a pattern in which prosecutors exaggerated claims about the reliability of forensic hair testing. The city government has been ordered to pay $39 million in damages over the past year.

The cases led to a federal review and a disclosure by the Justice Department that FBI examiners overstated testimony in nearly all criminal cases involving forensic hair evidence for two decades before 2000.

Tribble was convicted in 1980. At his trial, prosecutors suggested that it would be a “1 in 10 million” coincidence if hairs found in a stocking near the crime scene were not Tribble’s. The person who killed the taxi driver reportedly had worn a stocking mask.

Mott awarded Tribble $400,000 in damages for each year he was jailed along with money for lost wages and medical expenses and $100,000 for each year since his release and through 2019. Medical experts testified that Tribble, who suffers from liver failure and cognitive impairment, among other ailments, is not expected to live past 2019.

“Mr. Tribble’s ordeal did not merely deprive him of his liberty in a constitutional sense — it ruined his life, leaving him broken in body and spirit and, quite literally, dying,” Mott wrote.

Nick Brustin, whose firm represented Tribble, said in a statement that Tribble “continues to suffer after enduring so much and remains angry, but today is an important day for him and his family.”