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Innocent Indiana Man Awarded $9 Million for 20 Years Imprisonment

An Indiana federal jury awarded Larry Mayes $9 million for actions taken by police officers of Indiana's City of Hammond, which resulted in Mayes being convicted of a rape he did not commit. As a result of those actions, Mayes served almost 21 years in prison.

Mayes was arrested in January 1981 for rape, unlawful deviate conduct, and robbery that stemmed from two men robbing a gas station in Hammond. After they robbed the station, the men forced the clerk, L.J. to leave the store and enter a vehicle. The two men took turns forcing L.J. to give then raping her. Only the shorter of the two men ejaculated.

When the men finally released L.J., she contacted police and a "rape kit" test was performed. L.J. was unable to identify her attackers from photo line-ups presented by police. They then hypnotized L.J., who identified Mayes from a line-up of 10-12 persons. L.J., however, was unable to identify Mayes at a subsequent physical lineup, but identified the "wrong" man. After being shown the original photo line-up, L.J. identified Mayes physically.

Based upon these identifications, Mayes was arrested and taken to trial, where the tainted identification continued. No physical evidence tied Mayes to the crime, as his fingerprints were not among those found at the gas station or the get-away vehicle.

In 2001, DNA testing revealed the semen stains on L.J.'s panties were not from Mayes. Prior to that testing, L.J. revealed to prosecutors, for the first time, that she had not been able to identify Mayes prior to being hypnotized by police.

That hypnosis, if it had been revealed by police, would have prevented Mayes' arrest and trial because "evidence derived from a witness while he is in a hypnotic trance is inherently unreliable and should, therefore, be excluded as having not probative value." As such, the only evidence against Mayes would have been excluded.

Police, however, used that information regarding hypnosis from prosecutors and Mayes' defense to gain leverage against Mayes. They sought information from Mayes in an unrelated homicide of a Hammond police officer. Officers advised they knew Mayes was innocent of the charges against him, and offered him help if he gave information on the murder case. When he said he could offer no assistance, he was fed to the system.

On August 22, 2006, the federal jury awarded Mayes $9 million against the City of Hammond and Officer Michael Solan. See: Mayes v. City of Hammond, USDC, ND IN, Case No: 2:03-CV-379-PRC.

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Related legal case

Mayes v. City of Hammond