Three Baltimore police officers have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal of a $2.3 million judgment for maliciously prosecuting a homeless man as the “Charles Village rapist.”
Marlow Humbert sued the Baltimore Police Department in 2011, saying detectives had DNA results within about a month of his arrest that exonerated him, but they continued to hold him on the rape charge. He was held in solitary confinement for more than a year beginning in 2008.
The two sexual assaults in 2008 — one in the 2600 block of St. Paul St. on March 5, then four blocks south on April 30 — incited fear of a serial rapist and police arrested Humbert. He was released about 14 months later after DNA evidence failed to link him to the crimes.
Humbert sued the officers and police department in federal court and a jury ruled unanimously, finding the three officers violated Humbert's right to be free from malicious prosecution. He was awarded $2.3 million in damages in April 2015.
About two months later, U.S. District Judge William Quarles Jr. reversed the jury decision, concluding the detectives had probable cause and were entitled to immunity. Quarles wrote that police had not acted with "actual malice.”
Then Humbert appealed and three federal appeals judges in Richmond, Va., unanimously ordered last August that his award be reinstated.
“The questionable investigatory strategies of Baltimore City Police Department officers led to Humbert’s unlawful arrest,” Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote then. “Afterwards, the officers failed to inform the State’s Attorney that the victim could not positively identify Humbert and that DNA reports excluded him as a suspect.”
The Supreme Court accepts about 1 percent of such petitions, said Humbert’s attorney, Charles Edwards. He said the appeal will delay further any payment to his client.
“The part of accountability by the Baltimore City Police Department is to not delay and delay and delay,” Edwards said. “That sends the message to the other officers that this kind of malicious prosecution will be tolerated.”