Las Vegas Sun

September 18, 2019

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Man wrongly convicted after a DNA mix-up awarded $1.5 million

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Sheriff Doug Gillespie

Metro Police's Fiscal Affairs Committee approved a $1.5 million settlement today to the man wrongly convicted of a violent robbery after a DNA mix-up.

The committee, which oversees the department's finances, approved the settlement for Dwayne Jackson after brief testimony from Sheriff Doug Gillespie.

An accidental sample switch in Metro's forensic lab incorrectly identified then-18-year-old Jackson as the suspect in a 2001 robbery in the southeast valley. He served nearly four years in prison before his release in 2006.

Gillespie, who called the settlement amount "appropriate," said the figure was determined after discussions with Jackson's attorneys.

"I feel comfortable that they as well as us ... feel that this is a fair settlement for a man we took four years of his life," Gillespie said.

The settlement will be paid from the department's self-insured fund, which generally contains about $12 million.

The error came to light in November when the California Justice Department contacted Metro to say that an offender in its system matched the DNA profile of forensic evidence collected from a blue, hooded sweatshirt the suspect wore during the robbery. A national DNA database used by law enforcement agencies identified the match.

Police said that information triggered a seven-month process of evaluating the case and re-examining DNA evidence to confirm that a mistake had occurred.

The DNA matched Jackson's cousin, Howard Grissom, who also was considered a suspect immediately after the robbery. Grissom is serving a 41-year prison sentence in California for an unrelated crime.

The forensic scientist who handled the case, Terry Cook, is on paid administrative leave while Metro conducts an internal investigation.

The DNA mix-up discovery prompted the department to begin reanalyzing at least 200 DNA cases handled by Cook.

At the committee meeting today, Gillespie said he will keep the community informed of any changes the department makes as it evaluates its forensic lab's policies and procedures.

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