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Massachusetts Man's Estate Paid Millions for Wrongful Conviction

The town of Ayer, Massachusetts, and five insurance companies have agreed to pay the estate of a man who spent 18 years in prison for a murder he did not commit a total of $3.4 million. A sixth insurance company, Western World Insurance Group, had declined to settle.

Kenneth Waters was convicted in 1983 for the 1980 murder and robbery of Katherina Row, a woman who regularly visited the diner where Waters worked in Ayer. In 2001, however, Waters was freed from prison after his sister, Betty Anne Waters, uncovered DMA evidence which proved her brother wasn't the killer. (See: PLN, December 2009, p. 42.)

Kenneth died just six months after his release from prison from a head injury he suffered when he fell from a 15-foot wall in Rhode Island.

Betty Anne, then 54, said she devoted exactly "half of my life” trying to win her brother's freedom and clear his name. "It's been a long 27 years,” she said.

Following Kenneth's conviction, Betty Anne, a waitress and a mother of two, went to college, earned her law degree, and then started representing Kenneth herself. With the help of the New York-based Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law — and famed lawyer Barry Scheck — Betty Anne not only won her brother's freedom, but also orchestrated the settlement.

It was a "good resolution of the case,” Scheck said.

As usual, none of the defendants admitted any wrongdoing in the case. But Betty Anne said the settlement vindicated the decades she spent fighting for justice. ”I'm still very emotional,” she said.

The lawyer for the city of Ayer, Joseph L. Tehan, Jr., declined comment.

This is the second multi-million dollar payout by the town of Ayer in a month's time. The city also recently paid out $3.1 million to another man, Dennis Maher, who spent 19 years in prison for two rapes he did not commit before DNA evidence also cleared him.


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