‘I’m innocent:’ Jury awards $45M to Fairborn man wrongfully imprisoned

A Fairborn man was awarded a $45 million wrongful conviction verdict in federal court, the highest in state history, his lawyers said.

“The verdict just proved my point from day one, that I’m innocent,” said Roger “Dean” Gillispie on Monday outside the Walter H. Rice Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Dayton after the federal jury reached its verdict. “I was innocent. I’m innocent, always have been innocent, and we just proved it again one more time. That’s the third time we have proved that I am innocent.”

Gillispie had been trying to clear his name for more than 30 years following his 1991 conviction for the rapes and kidnappings of three women in two attacks in Miami Twp. and Harrison Twp.

In 2008, he filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that there was new evidence including the identification of an alternate suspect, and he argued that there were police reports that possibly eliminated him as a suspect that were never turned over to the defense. Gillispie’s convictions were vacated and a new trial was granted. He was released from prison and eventually a judge issued a decision dismissing the case with prejudice.

He was released in 2011 after spending more than 20 years in prison through extensive efforts by the University of Cincinnati Law School’s Ohio Innocence Project and his family.

He was declared “a wrongfully imprisoned individual” last December in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, which paved the way for his civil lawsuit.

The suit alleged former Miami Twp. detective Scott Moore failed to disclose camping receipts showing Gillispie could not have committed two of the crimes because he was in Kentucky at the time. It also claims that Moore “contaminated the investigation by creating unfair lineup procedures, claiming a witness had made an identification when she had not, and even later saying they might not recognize Gillispie in court because he ‘dyed his hair,’” said Gillispie’s attorneys from Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law.

Gillispie said he has no idea what he would do with his share of the $45 million judgment, nor when he would ever see that money. His attorney said they still expect litigation to take place even after the verdict and they said that Miami Twp. was Moore’s employer and therefore is liable.

A request for comment from Moore’s attorney wasn’t immediately returned Monday.

In a statement, Miami Twp. said, “Miami Twp. is disappointed in the verdict against former police officer, Matthew Scott Moore. The investigation involving Roger Dean Gillispie occurred more than 30 years ago, complicating Mr. Moore’s defense. Miami Twp. must reserve further comment until we thoroughly review the ruling against Mr. Moore.”

One of Gillispie’s attorneys, David Owens, said his client’s case is an important reminder that innocent people can be convicted of crimes they didn’t do.

“Back in 1988, back in 1990, no one knew that there were things called wrongful convictions, that a normal average person, a guy from Fairborn driving his truck around just trying to make a life for himself in his mid-20s could somehow find himself wrongfully convicted,” Owens said. “We never thought about that.”

“And so we have to do is take a step back and think about how mistakes in our system can lead to these … outcomes. It’s not just extreme situations. It’s not the most egregious thing. It’s just normal everyday people can be subjected to the system and victimized by it.”

Gillispie said the verdict does not make up for the life he lost nor erase the “20 years of hell” and violence, despair and dehumanization he experienced in prison.

“I’m just one of 3,199 people that this happened to in the United States of America and those people have served over 28,000 years in prison for crimes we did not commit,” Gillispie said. “And this has to stop. This system has to be fixed … to keep this from happening.”

Gillispie’s case was the first for the Ohio Innocence Project, and he said he was the 14th person released because of their efforts.



About the Authors