David Ayers, 56, was imprisoned for the beating death of 76-year-old Dorothy Brown in 2000, but earned a reversal of his conviction based on DNA evidence in 2011. On Friday, a jury found that two Cleveland detectives involved with the case were responsible for coercing false testimony against Ayers, bringing closure to the freed man’s legal struggles.
“These detectives didn’t do their jobs at all,” juror Stephanie Kocian told Cleveland newspaper The Plain Dealer in an interview. “They manipulated the evidence, and didn’t look at anyone else except the most convenient suspect to convict. The word ‘railroaded’ was thrown around the jury room during deliberations.”
Ayers was released from prison in 2011, but waited until March 2012 to file civil rights charges against the city of Cleveland, the housing authority and six city police officers. Though a judge found that the city was not directly responsible for violating Ayers rights, the actions of law enforcement overseeing the case will force taxpayers to pay for their misconduct.
At the time of the murder, Ayer worked as a security guard at the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority apartment complex where Brown was found dead, naked from the waist down. The two detectives, Michael Cipo and Denise Kovach, solicited false testimony from Ayer’s prison cellmate and a close friend, who both said that Ayers confessed to the murder. A DNA test later found that a pubic hair found in the victim’s mouth did not belong to Ayers.
Kovach and Cipo claimed that they acted in good faith and attempted to have the case dismissed in August. Federal Judge James Gwin denied the request, due to evidence supporting Ayer’s civil rights abuse case.
“This should have been stopped a long time ago,” Ayers told the Cleveland Plain Dealer after hearing the verdict. “My goal is that it never happens to anyone else ever again.”