Lawsuits seek millions in damages after wrongful murder convictions

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The city of Albany and several former detectives are facing two lawsuits stemming from wrongful murder convictions in the 1990s.

Two men spent nearly 20 years in jail for a murder they did not commit. The lawsuits detail the false confessions that several Albany detectives are said to have coerced out of the two men in 1997.

Now, the two men are asking for justice, accountability and tens of millions of dollars in damages.

“It was a broken department, and it’s something that never should have happened,” attorney Josh Kelner said.

Carl Dukes and Lavell Jones both spent nearly two decades in jail for killing Erik Mitchell in 1996 – a murder they did not commit.

“The entire situation that produced both wrongful convictions is infuriating,” Kelner said.

NEWS10 ABC spoke with attorney Josh Kelner over the phone. He is representing Dukes in the lawsuit.

“These were confessions manufactured by detectives,” he said.

Court documents that under interrogations by detectives, Dukes was told he would receive the death penalty for the crime if he did not confess. In a hearing, Dukes said, “I wasn’t trying to die. I just signed my name on it.”

The lawsuit filed by Jones tells a similar story. Albany detectives coerced him into falsely confessing to the murder as well.

The document states “Jones did not do it and was not present at the time of the murder.”

“You cannot get back 15 years or 20 years of your life,” Alice Green with the Center for Law and Justice said.

Green said that type of activity was typical for the Albany Police Department at the time. Lawsuits help bring that to light.

“I think this helps to change that culture,” she said. “We don’t see as many lawsuits now.”

NEWS10 also spoke with the lawyer for the city, who is motioning to have the lawsuits dismissed saying “this issue has been litigated on four different occasions, and on each occasion they lost.”

Kelner said the case needs to be heard by a jury. He’s asking for $50 million in damages for Dukes.

“There’s no amount of money that can compensate him for the opportunity to have a normal life,” he said.

The city attorney said they are waiting on a change of venue decision for the lawsuit brought by Jones before motioning to dismiss it.

That lawsuit asks for an unspecified amount in damages.

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