Wrongfully imprisoned 26 years, Walter Swift awarded $2.5 million by Detroit

A Detroit man is expected to be awarded $2.5 million after spending years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. 

"He's struggling mightily to survive in a world that's completely foreign to him," says attorney Julie Hurwitz. "He served half his life in prison as an innocent man."

Now that money is supposed to right the wrong after a bungled rape investigation that led to a then-21-year-old to spend nearly three decades in prison.

You'll have to excuse his lawyer for calling that settlement "bittersweet."

"We feel relieved but at the same time we are extremely disappointed with the way this case was defended by the city of Detroit," Hurwitz says. "This is a case that should have never taken this long.

"Mr. Swift should've been compensated far greater than what he is being compensated, for 26 years of wrongful imprisonment."

Swift was released in 2008 after a decade-long investigation by the Innocence Project.

Hurwitz says police misconduct cost her client his freedom.

"There was exculpatory evidence hidden from both the prosecutor and defense in this case that led to the ability to convict Walter Swift," she says.

Hurwitz says investigators never disclosed that the victim identified seven other people before identifying Swift.

There were also a pair of lab tests taken to determine the rapist's blood type. One was inconclusive. The other proved Swift was innocent.

"That was buried by the officers in charge of this case," Hurwitz says.

And 21 years after the crime he did not commit, the investigating officer came clean.

"She disclosed (to the officer) that she knew this man was innocent and she never intended to pursue this prosecution," Hurwitz says. "Because it was a high profile rape that occurred in Indian Village by an African-American man, the victim was a white woman her husband was a lawyer, they needed to solve this crime."

If you think cases like this are incredibly rare, Hurwitz says think again.

There continue to be thousands upon thousands of people wrongfully prosecuted and convicted all over the country.

Dwayne Provience is one of them.

"One day my whole life changed," he says. "They pulled me over and said, 'You are wanted in connection with a murder.' And I went down to 1300 Beaubien, got questioned and after that, I never saw the light of day after that." 

He was wrongly convicted of killing a drug dealer in 2001 and spent nearly a decade in prison. 

Wolf Mueller is an attorney who represented Provience.

"Here we have an officer in charge that clearly committed egregious misconduct  in not turning over evidence to prosecutor that would show Dwayne wasn't even involved in this murder," he says.

A mediation panel said Provience should be awarded $5 million - then Detroit went bankrupt.

Now they too could soon settle with the city.

As for Swift this settlement was a long time coming, even though an official apology has not.

"The settlement of this case is a day that should have occurred years ago," Hurwitz says. "We are gratified the city of Detroit has finally at least taken some small step in accountability and acknowledgment of the wrong that was done to Walter Swift."

City Council must approve the settlement first, within the next two weeks. Swift should then be paid within a month after the approval. 

His attorneys would receive a third of the money. A federal court will oversee the case for about two months to make sure the money is paid.
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