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NY woman to get $2.7M for wrongful conviction

Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – A New York woman who spent more than 13 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of killing her teenage daughter has reached a $2.7 million settlement with the state, her attorney said Tuesday.

Lynn DeJac Peters, whose conviction was overturned in 2007 on the basis of DNA evidence, initially sought more than $10 million in a written demand in 2009 but lowered the amount as time went on. Earlier this year, she accused the state of dragging its feet on her wrongful imprisonment claim, hoping to wear her down.

“We’re pleased that this ends a long, four-year battle with New York state to compensate Lynn for the 13 years of her life that she lost for something she didn’t do,” lawyer Steven Cohen said in announcing the settlement at a news conference.

While imprisoned at the maximum-security Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, DeJac Peters wasn’t allowed private visitation with her twin sons, born just before her trial, because she maintained her innocence, her lawyer said.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

DeJac Peters, who was not at Tuesday’s news conference, was convicted in 1994 of strangling her 13-year-old daughter, Crystallynn Girard, in their Buffalo home on Valentine’s Day 1993.

Her second-degree murder conviction was overturned in November 2007 after newly analyzed DNA evidence placed DeJac Peters’ former boyfriend in the bedroom of her daughter around the time the girl died.

Despite the findings, prosecutors could not consider bringing charges against the boyfriend, Dennis Donohue, because he’d received immunity by testifying before the grand jury that charged DeJac Peters.

In February 2008, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office dismissed all charges against DeJac Peters after forensics experts they hired while preparing for her retrial concluded Crystallynn had not been murdered, but died of a cocaine overdose, a finding her mother and Cohen have called “ludicrous.”

Donohue was later convicted in the September 1993 strangulation death of another woman and is serving 25 years to life in prison.

Cohen said Tuesday that the state became serious about settling DeJac Peters’ wrongful imprisonment claim in late September, after a state-hired forensics expert examined slides and records from Crystallynn’s autopsy and concluded she had been strangled, as initially thought, as well as raped.

DeJac Peters, who has believed from the beginning that Donohue killed her daughter, has filed a $30 million lawsuit against Erie County and the City of Buffalo alleging negligence in the investigation and prosecution of Crystallynn’s death. The civil suit claiming deprivation of DeJac Peters’ civil rights is pending in U.S. District Court in Buffalo.

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