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$6 Million Payout in Montana Wrongful Conviction Case

Plaintiffs Paul Jenkins, Kenneth Jenkins and Crystal Combs alleged in the complaint that misconduct carried out by authorities in Ravalli, Jefferson, and Lewis and Clark counties resulted in “extensive injuries suffered by Mr. Jenkins and his children as a direct result of his wrongful conviction on 1994 charges of homicide, aggravated kidnapping and robbery in the murder of Donna Meagher.

The plaintiffs’ complaint accused defendants of violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including, “Claim for Deprivation of Liberty Without Due Process of Law, Deprivation of Right to Fair Trial, Deprivation of Right to be Free From Reckless Investigation, Deprivation of Right to be Free From Use of Fabricated Evidence and Deprivation of Right to be Free From Law Enforcement Conduct Constituting Deliberate Indifference or Reckless Disregard for the Truth Under the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Deputies and investigators in those counties engaged in a fruitless investigation of the murder, before relying upon fabricated evidence by a known liar to implicate members of the Jenkins family and engaged in coercive and misleading interrogations of witnesses, while ignoring evidence that would have led to the real killer. Jenkins was finally released after the true killer, David Nelson, bragged to his nephew about the killing.

The plaintiffs also alleged that the defendants had deliberately concealed evidence, finally discovered in 1999, that would have exonerated Jenkins. DNA evidence from a rope found at the scene of the murder eventually implicated Nelson, and Jenkins was finally freed in April 2018.

Under the settlement, Paul Jenkins received $5 million, and Kenneth Jenkins and Crystal Combs each received $500,000. Plaintiffs attorneys were Robert T. Bell, Mark M. Kovacich, and Dennis E. Lind. See: Jenkins, et. al v. Ravalli County, et. al, Case No. 19-cv-00146, U.S.D.C. (D. Mont.). 


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Related legal case

Jenkins, et. al v. Ravalli County, et. al