Man Freed by DNA Sues South Bend, Indiana Police

By TOM COYNE Associated Press Writer 
June 5, 2002

   SOUTH BEND, Ind.- A man cleared by a DNA test of rape charges after serving 5 years of a 70-year prison sentence has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, its police department and 14 of its officers.

   The lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of Richard Alexander, 35, of South Bend seeks unspecified damages, although his attorney, Roseann P. Ivanovich of Merrillville said she expects to ask a jury to award her client about $55 million, or about $10 million for each year he was wrongly imprisoned.

   "This has such lasting effects on him. He truly has a lot of fear of police that may last his entire lifetime. This has affected him so much. It has affected the way he looks at people," she said.

   Alexander was released from prison on Dec. 12 after the DNA test not available when he was convicted cleared him.

   He originally was charged with four rapes in the River Park section of South Bend, based solely on the identification of victims and witnesses. His first trial ended in a hung jury. He was acquitted in one of the three remaining attacks but convicted in the other two.

   In the 48-page lawsuit, Ivanovich contends that Alexander's federal and state constitutional rights were violated by how police conducted the investigation.

   City Attorney Chuck Leone said Wednesday he had not yet been able to review the lawsuit in depth.

   "We have to figure out exactly what the facts are and how each of our officers participated in the whole process," he said.

   Among the allegations in the lawsuit are that police showed photos of Alexander to rape victims who said they had not seen their attackers' faces, that tainted or coerced identifications were used, that police destroyed evidence and ignored Alexander's alibi.

   "Probable cause is defined as more than a mere suspicion," Ivanovich said. "They had less than a mere suspicion. They were stopping young, African-American males that remotely fit within the description and they definitely did not have probable cause from the first time they stopped him."

   One of the 14 officers being sued by Alexander is an officer credited with helping get him released, South Bend police Sgt. Cindy Eastman. Eastman did not return a telephone message left at her office Wednesday afternoon by The Associated Press.

   On the day that Alexander was released, though, she said she and her partner had a "gut feeling" that Alexander had not committed the crime, "but the conviction went forward on the good-faith belief by the witnesses that the evidence pointed in that direction. You can only take your gut feeling so far."

   Ivanovich said she didn't find it strange that Alexander is suing someone who helped him regain his freedom.

   "Even though she had doubts, she testified against him twice. I have a big problem with that."


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