Gerald Burge was convicted of the murder of Douglas Frierson, who was shot to death in 1980 in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana.
As the investigation developed, evidence came to light that indicated Mr. Burge’s innocence. Despite the evidence, the police officer investigating the case continued to pursue Mr. Burge as the primary suspect. During the course of the investigation, the investigating officer started dating the murder victim's sister (he later married her), and advised her and her mother to testify dishonestly at trial.
Furthermore, the investigating officer intentionally kept evidence which legally established Mr. Burge’s innocence in the trunk of his car and never shared it with Mr. Burge’s attorney or presented it in court.
Mr. Burge was convicted of second-degree murder in 1986 and sentenced to life without parole.
Six years later, the withheld evidence was revealed, including a confession by the actual murderer and an affidavit that contradicted a primary witness’s statements. Mr. Burge was granted a new trial and acquitted by a jury in 1992.
Mr. Burge filed suit against St. Tammany Parish. At his civil trial, the supervisor of the investigating officer testified that the investigating officer had told him, “If some of this [evidence] got out, we would have lost the case.”
In 2001, a jury awarded Mr. Burge $4.3 million after deciding that the St. Tammany Sheriff’s office and the lead detective had violated Mr. Burge’s civil rights by withholding key evidence. However the jury did not specify the amount to be paid by Mr. Hale and the amount to be paid by the Sheriff’s office. The Sheriff’s office appealed, while Mr. Hale did not, and the judgment was thrown out by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003. The final amount that Mr. Burge will receive is still before the courts.
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