Acquitted of murder in 2015 after serving six years in prison, a wrongly convicted San Francisco man was awarded $10 million in damages on Friday. According to the federal jury, the two lead homicide detectives in the case violated the man’s rights by fabricating evidence against him and withholding evidence that could have helped him during trial.
In July 2007, Jamal Trulove’s friend, Seu Kuka, was fatally shot in the back at the Sunnydale public housing complex. Although the witness to the shooting did not initially identify Trulove as the killer, homicide detectives, Michael Johnson and Maureen D’Amico, allegedly coerced the witness into identifying Trulove by repeatedly pressuring her to accuse him. According to court records, there was also evidence that the officers were aware of another possible suspect who was never investigated.
In addition to the detectives framing Trulove for murder, the prosecutor falsely stated to the jury during the trial that the witness had been threatened and risked her life by testifying against Trulove. In 2014, a state appeals court overturned Trulove’s conviction after finding that the prosecutor had made an unfounded claim.
In March 2015, a San Francisco jury acquitted Trulove and tossed out his earlier murder conviction after he already served six years in prison. The conviction was thrown out due to the prosecutor’s improper closing argument, and Trulove was found not guilty of murder and firearm charges.
On Friday, a federal court jury awarded $10 million in damages to Trulove after unanimously deciding that detectives Johnson and D’Amico violated his rights by fabricating evidence against him and withholding evidence that could have supported his innocence. The jury found no wrongdoing by a third inspector, Robert McMillan, and the crime-scene investigator, Officer John Evans. All four officers have retired.
“It’s about time,” said one of Trulove’s attorneys, Kate Chatfield. “Justice is not (merely) being acquitted for a crime you did not do. This was finally justice.”
Trulove was initially sentenced to 50 years in prison for the murder before his release in 2015. He currently works at an after-school program for at-risk children in San Francisco.