MILWAUKEE (AP) — A second man who was wrongly convicted of a murder that was later linked to a serial killer has sued the city of Milwaukee and its police department, saying detectives framed him.
William Avery, 39, was released from prison last year after DNA from the murder of Maryetta Griffin was connected to Walter Ellis, who was convicted this year of killing seven women over two decades.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday, Avery and his five adult children contend that Milwaukee detectives made up incriminating statements they attributed to Avery and then got other inmates to corroborate the false evidence.
Chaunte Ott filed a similar lawsuit in 2009 after he spent 13 years in prison for killing a 16-year-old runaway, Jessica Payne, whose DNA was later linked to Ellis. That trial is set to start Sept. 26.
City Attorney Grant Langley told The Associated Press on Friday that he had not yet seen the lawsuit and had no comment. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
Authorities never charged Ellis with the murders of Payne or Griffin. In a news release, Avery’s attorneys said that although Ellis has not been charged with Griffin’s murder, DNA and other overwhelming evidence points to him as the culprit.
Avery had been convicted in the 1998 strangulation of Griffin, who was 39, and sentenced to 40 years in prison. He served nearly six years and was ordered released in 2010. Click here to subscribe to Wisconsin Law Journal today
Avery told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he had spoken with Griffin’s relatives, and they believe Ellis was her killer. He said he is studying carpentry at Milwaukee Area Technical College and is rebuilding his relationships with his children.
“I can’t get those six years I was in there back, but at least the truth will be out there,” he said.
The lawsuit claims “extreme emotional distress, physical suffering and financial loss,” and that his four daughters and one son lost the emotional and financial support of their father while he was imprisoned.
“In addition to the wrongful loss of his liberty, Mr. Avery missed out on important milestones in his children’s lives and suffered the humility of being branded a murderer,” the plaintiffs contend.
One of Avery’s attorneys, Heather Lewis Donnell, said Friday they plan to file a petition soon asking Avery also be compensated by the state.