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Disabled Man Settles For $11.7M In Indiana Wrongful Conviction Case

Andrew Royer, a man with developmental disabilities who spent more than 16 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of murder, reached a settlement of $11,725,000 with the city of Elkhart, Ind. Royer, 48, said that that when he learned of the settlement he “went numb.” “I’m a brand-new person,” he told the New York Times. “I’m ecstatic.” A jury convicted Royer in the 2002 killing of Helen Sailor, 94, who was found strangled in a high-rise apartment. Royer was sentenced to 55 years in prison. His lawyers argued on appeal that he was interrogated for two days and was coerced into giving a false confession without a lawyer In the confession, he seemed unsure of many details. There was no physical evidence tying him to the crime. Lana Canen, a co-defendant and a friend of Royer, had her conviction overturned in 2012

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An Elkhart County detective had provided evidence that a fingerprint of Canen that was found at the crime scene. When an appellate lawyer had the fingerprint re-examined, it didn’t match. A witness who placed Canen and Royer in the victim’s apartment recanted her testimony and said she was coerced by the police. In 2020, Royer was granted a new trial after a judge ruled that the statements obtained from him were “unreliable” and “involuntary.” The next month, Royer was released from prison. The state appealed the ruling, and in 2021 the Indiana Court of Appeals issued a blistering decision that upheld the lower court ruling for a new trial. The appellate court said Detective Carlton Conway gave false testimony at the initial trial when he said he did not lead Royer into repeating crime scene details and that Royer had offered them up on his own, without prompting by the police.

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