MILWAUKEE -- A federal jury says the City of Milwaukee must pay William Avery $1 million because he was wrongly convicted of a murder. Avery served six years in prison before new evidence in the case was found -- and he was granted his freedom.
Avery once admitted to killing Maryetta Griffin, according to police at the time. Griffin was strangled back in 1998. Avery said he never confessed -- and six years after his conviction, new DNA testing linked another man to the crime.
During the civil rights case of Avery, his lawyers argued that detectives violated Avery's rights -- making up incriminating statements to get their conviction.
Avery was convicted of killing Griffin in 2005. He was released in 2010 after DNA evidence linked the crime to serial killer Walter Ellis. Ellis pleaded no contest to seven Milwaukee murders. He died in prison in 2013.
"Essentially the evidence against him was fabricated statements that two officers claimed he made and there wasn't more than Mr. Avery saying, 'I didn't say that.' Nothing to back that up," said John Stainthorp with Peoples Law Office in Chicago.
But another murder eventually linked to Ellis also is putting the City of Milwaukee on the hook for millions. Chaunte Ott served 13 years for the murder of 16-year-old Jessica Payne in 1995 before his release in 2009. Recently, Ott was awarded a $6.5 million settlement from the city. Those are numbers the attorney for Avery does not think are excessive.
"If you think about it, six years while you're in prison, you can't get up when you want, you can't see the people you want, go to bed when you want, read what you want," said Stainthorp.
Avery's attorney says since he's been out of prison, Avery has gotten carpentry education from MATC -- and has a home remodeling business. He is re-establishing contact with his children and grandchildren.