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Wrongfully Convicted Pennsylvania Prisoner Settles for $2.3 Million; Forensics Expert Fired

A wrongfully convicted ex-prisoner who spent 15-years in a Pennsylvania prison got modest compensation from the government that imprisoned him by winning a $2.3 million settlement in the lawsuits he filed. In Washington state, a forensic scientist was fired after his unprofessional testimony led to the wrongful conviction of two Montana men and imprisonment for a combined total of 28 years for a rape they didn't commit.

On March 22, 2004, Bruce Godschalk, settled his lawsuit against Upper Merion, Pennsylvania, detectives for $1.6 million. He had previously accepted a settlement of $740,000 from Montgomery County in the same suit. All of the money is covered by insurance Policies held by the city and county.

Acting on a tip from Godschalk's sister, Detectives Bruce Saville and Michael Karcewski arrested Godschalk in 1986 and, according to Godschalk, used "trickery and deceit" to coerce a confession to two rapes. He was then convicted and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. After the state refused Godschalk's request for DNA testing, a federal judge ordered testing in November, 2001. This led to his release on February 14, 2002. [See July 2003, PLN for more details.]

"We still don't think we did anything wrong," said Montgomery County Solicitor Joseph. J. Pizonka. "But we got to thinking. He spent 15 years of his life in prison. What is that worth"

On March 23, 2004, The Washington State Patrol fired Forensic Scientist III Arnold Melnikoff citing unprofessional testimony he gave in 1990 in Montana. Montana prisoners Paul Kordonowy and Jimmy Ray Bromgard were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2003. Bromgard had spent 15 years in prison for the rape of an 8-year-old girl. Kordonowy was convicted of rape in a January 1990 trial in which Melnikoff testified regarding fiber and hair samples. According to fiber and hair experts, there were "egregious misstatements" in Melnikoff's testimony on the number of hair examinations he had conducted and the statistical comparisons he made.

The State Patrol found misconduct involving Melnikoff's testimony and statistical comparisons. The investigation was initiated by a letter from the New York-based Innocence Project which had helped Kordonowy obtain the DNA testing. Melnikoff's attorney claimed that the investigation was flawed and said he would appeal the firing to the state Personnel Appeals Board.

Sources: Seattle Times;

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Related legal case

Godschalk v. ______