COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio man won $45 million in a civil lawsuit against a police department and detective whose actions led to his wrongful conviction and more than 20 years behind bars.
Dean Gillispie sued the Miami Township Police Department and former detective Scott Moore for suppressing evidence and falsifying the identification of eyewitnesses in the 1991 rape and kidnapping case against Gillispie.
Gillispie was convicted in Montgomery County in 1991 and released from prison in 2011. The Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati Law School, former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, and Dean’s mother, Juana Gillispie, worked to free him and clear his name.
Today Gillispie is 57 and lives in Fairborn, a suburb of Dayton.
“The horror that was inflicted on Dean and his family and community is hard to imagine,” said Ohio Innocence project director Mark Godsey. “The way the authorities pushed through a conviction and then fought back and refused to admit they were wrong was so disappointing. Nothing can get Dean back for the horror.”
He added, “The jury’s verdict sends a strong message that those in power need to change their modus operandi.”
“In this case, justice prevailed even though it took a long, long, long time to come to that,” said Petro, who co-authored a book on wrongful convictions with his wife Nancy.
David Owens, whose law firm Loevy & Loevy represents wrongly convicted clients and is representing Gillispie, said they believe $45 million represents a record in Ohio.
It’s unclear if Miami Township or Moore will attempt to appeal the case or when Gillispie may receive payment.
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Gillispie has maintained his innocence from day one. In 2021, a Montgomery County judge declared Gillispie a wrongfully imprisoned person.
He was convicted of raping and kidnapping twin sisters in one attack and a third wife in a second attack. But the jury in the federal civil suit found that Moore had violated Gillispie’s rights by hiding evidence that would have helped Gillispie’s defense and creating unfair filing procedures for the victims.
Moore claimed a witness provided an identification when she hadn’t, and later told victims they might not recognize Gillispie in court because he “dyed his hair.” Evidence was also presented that Moore did not disclose camping receipts showing Gillispie was in Kentucky at the time of the crimes, his attorneys said.
No biological evidence has ever linked Gillispie to the crimes.
While incarcerated, Gillispie turned to art in a variety of mediums. It was an outlet for his pain and his idea of how life would have been different. In 2020, his artwork depicting a miniature camping trailer was included in Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
After his release, he bought and restored a trailer.