Man locked up by Detroit police wins $3.5M in mistaken identity case

Fifteen days may not seem like a long time behind bars - just don't say that to the person who's been there without ever committing a crime.

Attorney Jim Harrington represents Marvin Seales -- a man who was just awarded $3.5 million after being wrongfully jailed for two weeks in 2012.

"If the police did their basic job and ran any type of lien check on Marvin Seales, the identity of who Marin Seales was, would have been known immediately," said Harrington.

Detroit police arrested Seales at his job in Warren, accusing him of being the gunman in a drive-by shooting from 2010. The problem was, they got the wrong guy. 

The actual suspect had used the name "Marvin Seals" as an alias. The real Seales pleaded with his jailers and, before that, the arresting officer, to confirm his identity. 

"While he's in cuffs he tells the defendant officer, 'Look at my wallet, check my wallet: you'll see my ID, you'll see my Social Security card, you'll see my credit card, you'll see the Blue Cross cards, you'll see all of those things." Harrington said. "But they laughed at him and said those are all fraudulent."

So Marvin Seales sat in jail waiting to be tried for a crime he did not commit. The truth he shared with anyone who would listen came out during his preliminary exam.

"The victim in the underlying crime, when they went to do the identification, that person looks over and says I don't know who that is, but that's not him."

The prosecutor, Shannon Walker, moved to have the case dismissed. Seales sued the City of Detroit and the arresting officer, Thomas Zberkot, in 2012.

His case languished as the City went through bankruptcy and its lawyers tried, unsuccessfully, to get it thrown out. The case went to trial in late July and the jury sided with Seales. 

Harrington recalled a pivotal and telling moment as he cross-examined a Detroit cop the defense called as a witness.

"He comes into court and tells the jury, well we had the warrant so we just arrest the guy," Harrington said. "And I ask him, point blank, I asked him, 'Lock em up and sort 'em out later, is that what you do?' He said yes."

Detroit's corporation counsel Lawrence Garcia told FOX 2 "While we are not commenting on the verdict itself, the law department does plan to appeal the decision at trial on behalf of the officer-defendant."

The officer in question he is still employed with DPD. As for the suspect in that drive-by shooting police mistook Marvin Seales for, he was never arrested. 

It's unclear if there's an active warrant for his arrest today.