A man who spent 27 years wrongfully imprisoned for the rape and murder of a college coed was framed by Washington, D.C. police who acted improperly in the case against the man, a jury found in a verdict that could cost the city millions.
A federal jury Wednesday sided with Donald Eugene Gates, 64, in a civil lawsuit, making the District liable for damages for the time he spent behind bars, the Associated Press reported.
The Washington Post reported that the jury found two metro homicide detectives concocted all or part of a confession the claimed Gates made to a police informant.
The investigators also withheld other evidence from Gates before he was convicted for the 1981 rape and murder of Georgetown University student Catherine Schilling, 21, TheWashington Post wrote.
Gates said Wednesday was "one of the happiest days of my life," the AP wrote.
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People who have been wrongfully imprisoned and released
Man who spent 27 years in prison for rape, murder was framed by cops: Jury
Kevin Richardson (L), one of the wrongly convicted "Central Park Five", takes a break with his sister Crystal Cuffee during a news conference to announce the payout for the case at City Hall in New York June 27, 2014. New York City's chief fiscal officer on Thursday signed off on a settlement that would end the decade-long civil rights lawsuit brought by five men wrongfully convicted of raping a jogger in Central Park in 1989. The size of the settlement has not been publicly disclosed but a person familiar with the matter previously told Reuters it is approximately $40 million. The figure would appear to make it the largest wrongful conviction settlement in New York history. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS SOCIETY)
Former San Quentin death row inmate Chol Soo Lee (L) and veteran investigative journalist K.W. Lee (unrelated) visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Tomb at the MLK Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia September 22, 2007. Chol Soo Lee, who was wrongfully convicted for a 1973 San Francisco murder case and spent ten years in prison until his release in 1983, died on December 2, 2014 after complications related to surgery at age 62, according to friends. Lee's story was made into a 1989 film, True Believer. Picture taken on September 22, 2007. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW OBITUARY)
John Nolley holds one of his grandchildren, whom he had never seen, after the hearing in Fort Worth, Texas, on May 17, 2016. His sons Bryson Nolley, left, and Tavon Seaton, right, look on. (Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - March 1: Ricky Jackson stands for a portrait in his apartment on March 1, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. Jackson, America's longest-serving wrongfully convicted prisoner, served 39 years and was released through the help of the Ohio Innocence Project. (Photo by Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)
Jason Strong works out at his home in rural Tennessee on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. Strong was wrongfully convicted of the death of Mary Kate Sunderlin and was sentenced to 46 years in prison. He spent 15 years in prison but was freed in May of 2015 after evidence cleared him of the crime. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27: Kevin Richardson, one of the five men wrongfully convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989, wipes his brow while speaking at a press conference on city halls' steps after it was announced that the men, known as the 'Central Park Five,' had settled with New York City for approximately $40 million dollars on June 27, 2014 in New York City. All five men spent time in jail, until their convictions were overturned in 2002 after being proven innocent. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 11: Yusef Salaam (left) testifies against the death penalty at a hearing before the New York State Assembly at Pace University as his mother, Sharonne Salaam, looks on. Salaam, who was wrongfully convicted of beating and raping a female jogger in Central Park in 1989, spent 15 years in prison. He was released when the real assailant confessed to the crime. (Photo by Debbie Egan-Chin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Free after 19 years in state prison, Harold Hall, photographed Friday at back of criminal courts building, near basement exit hes was released from without fanfare earlier this week. Hall always believed his freedom would come. He just didn't realize would spend half his life behind bars before it did. Hall, wrongfully convicted of a 1985 murder, walked free this week after Los Angeles prosecutors decided not to retry him. A federal appellate court granted him a new trial last year after ruling that Hall's due process rights were denied because police and prosecutors relied on a dubious confession and a jailhouse informant. (Photo by Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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When he was 30, Gates was arrested for in the rape and murder of Schilling, who was found naked and shot five times in the head in a D.C. park.
He had failed to appear in court on an unrelated case and as part of a processing procedure, gave up a hair sample, which authorities at the time claimed were "microscopically indistinguishable" from hairs found on the victim's body, according to the Innocence Project.
A police informant, identified by the Innocence Project as Gerald Mack Smith, claimed he and Gates were drinking in the park when Gates said he wanted to rob Schilling and killed her and when she resisted. Smith would go on to make $1,300 for his help on the case.
Police never revealed to the defense that Smith had two prior felony convictions. They also did not divulge that days before he made the false and condemning statement against Gates, Smith was indicted for a third felony. That indictment was dismissed after his assistance in the Schilling investigation.
Gates in 1988 requested DNA testing on the hairs. Initial results were inconclusive, but a 1997 internal review of the FBI lab found the lab report of the special agent tasked with examining the hair was not supported by his notes.
Ten years later, Gates sought DNA testing again and when the request was granted two years later, tests conducted found the semen sample found on Schilling did not match Gates and he was eliminated as the killer and rapist.
Gates was freed in 2009, when he received $75 and a bus ticket to Ohio, the Innocence Project wrote. He was granted a certificate of actual innocence in 2010.
Schilling's rapist and killer were eventually identified through the DNA profile of the semen to have worked at her office building. It was determined that man followed Schilling home when she left work, but by the time the real suspect was identified, he was deceased, the Innocence Project wrote.
Jurors face no limit on how much money they can award Gates in compensatory damages.