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$1.31 Million Awarded to California Man Wrongly Jailed on Murder Charge

On February 25, 2009, a California federal jury awarded $1,310,000 to a man who spent eight months in jail facing a murder charge that was eventually dismissed.

Shortly after Christopher Shahnazari was shot in Glendale, California on November 1, 2005, he examined a photo-graphic lineup and said Edmond Ovasapyan, 28, looked like his assailant. Based on that identification, Glendale police detective Arthur Frank and Lt. Ian Grimes arrested Ovasapyan and booked him into the Los Angeles County Jail. When Shahnazari died, Ovasapyan was charged with murder.

Eight months after his arrest, the charges against Ovasapyan were dropped and he was released. He then filed a civil rights action claiming malicious prosecution, alleging that Frank and Grimes had ignored exculpatory evidence – specifically his alibi witness. Ovasapyan’s attorney obtained his cell phone records, which indicated he was not in the area at the time Shahnazari was shot.

The case went to trial and the jury found for Ovasapyan, awarding him compensatory damages of $1 million for past pain and suffering and $160,000 in economic damages related to attorney fees, investigatory fees and costs in the underlying criminal case. The jury also assessed punitive damages of $75,000 each against Frank and Grimes.

On May 5, 2009, the district court entered an amended judgment awarding Ovasapyan $271,495.57 in attorney fees and $5,543.85 in costs. The city has since appealed the jury verdict. Ovasapyan was represented by Los Angeles attorneys Pat Harris and Shelley L. Kaufman. See: Ovasapyan v. City of Glendale, U.S.D.C. (C.D. Cal.), Case No. 2:08-cv-00194-CAS-JWJ.

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Related legal case

Ovasapyan v. City of Glendale

Please see the brief bank for documents related to this case.