DETROIT (AP) — The state of Michigan has agreed to pay $1.03 million to a man who spent nearly 21 years in prison for the deaths of two hunters before the convictions were thrown out in February.
Jeff Titus, 71, qualified for compensation under the state’s wrongful conviction law, which pays $50,000 for every year behind bars. Records show Court of Claims Judge James Redford signed off on the deal on Aug. 23.
“Our goal is to hold accountable those who are responsible for the harm done to Mr. Titus. The state’s acknowledgment of his wrongful conviction is a start,” attorney Wolfgang Mueller said Friday.
Titus had long declared his innocence in the fatal shootings of Doug Estes and Jim Bennett near his Kalamazoo County land in 1990.
He was released from a life sentence earlier this year when authorities acknowledged that Titus’ trial lawyer in 2002 was never given a police file with details about another suspect. Thomas Dillon was an Ohio serial killer whose five victims between 1989 and 1992 were hunting, fishing or jogging.
There is no dispute that the failure to produce the file violated Titus’ constitutional rights. In June, Kalamazoo County prosecutor Jeff Getting said Titus would not face another trial.
“I don’t know who ultimately murdered Mr. Estes and Mr. Bennett,” said Getting, who wasn’t involved in the 2002 trial.
There was no physical evidence against Titus, who was portrayed at trial as a hothead who didn’t like trespassers. The Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan law school worked to exonerate him.
Dillon died in prison in 2011.
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Ed White, The Associated Press