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Ohio Wrongful Conviction Results in $2.59 Million Settlement

On April 25, 2011, Raymond D. Towler, 53, received a settlement of $2,592,571 after serving almost 29 years for a rape he didn’t commit. The award included a $600,000 annuity to provide ongoing monthly payments plus a $1.91 million lump sum payment; $78,800 of the settlement went to Towler’s attorneys for fees and costs.

The Ohio Controlling Board agreed to settle Towler’s claim, which will be paid from the state’s Wrongful Imprisonment Fund, after he was declared innocent by a Cuyahoga County judge.

Towler was convicted in 1981 of rape, felonious assault and kidnapping, and sentenced to life plus 12-40 years. DNA testing of semen recovered from the 11-year-old female rape victim’s underwear revealed that Towler was not the perpetrator, and he was released in May 2010. “They had the wrong person and it took them a while to work it out,” he remarked. Both of his parents had died while he was incarcerated.

Towler had been convicted based on eyewitness testimony from the victim and her 12-year-old cousin. Eyewitness testimony has been shown to be highly unreliable, and is a factor in a substantial number of wrongful convictions.

Another former Ohio prisoner who was exonerated based on DNA evidence, Clarence Elkins, attended Towler’s court hearing when he was freed. Elkins served almost 8 years in prison before being exonerated, and filed a lawsuit that resulted in settlements totaling $6.3 million. [See: PLN, July 2011, p.11].

“You can’t make up for 30 years with any amount, but I plan to keep moving forward,” Towler stated. He was employed as a mailroom clerk at Medical Mutual of Ohio and said he intended to keep working. “I don’t want this money to change who I am or what I become. I was lucky to find a job when I got out, and I’m not going to run out on them.”

State Rep. Clayton Luckie apologized for Towler’s nearly three decades of wrongful imprisonment. “Too many individuals are found guilty by association or are in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Luckie. “We should apologize when we make a mistake and lock up an innocent person. I hope this is a step in the healing process for Mr. Towler.”
Towler said that he wants “to be smart with the money, but life is too short to center my world around money.” Despite his years in prison, Towler expressed that he has “no hate for anyone.”

Only a few other prisoners exonerated by DNA testing have served more time than Towler. The Ohio legislature passed sweeping legislation in the wake of Towler’s exoneration in an effort to prevent further wrongful convictions. See: Towler v. State of Ohio, Ohio Court of Claims, Case No. 2010-7148-WI.

Sources: The Columbus Dispatch,

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Related legal case

Towler v. State of Ohio