Milwaukee to pay $6.5 million to man wrongly convicted of murder

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 21, 2015 6:13 PM

By Brendan O'Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A man, who spent 13 years in prison before DNA tests exonerated him of the murder of a teenage runaway, will receive $6.5 million from Milwaukee under an agreement approved on Tuesday unanimously by city lawmakers.

Chaunte Ott, 41, was wrongly accused of killing 16-year-old Jessica Payne in Milwaukee in 1995, authorities said, adding they now believe Payne was the victim of a serial killer who died in prison.

"We're appreciative that the case reached a fair resolution and that Mr. Ott can move on with his life," Ott's attorney Jon Loevy said.

Ott was convicted in 1996 of first-degree homicide and sentenced to life in prison after two men testified they were with him when he raped Payne and slashed her throat after trying to rob her, court documents showed.

In 2002, DNA tests requested by the Wisconsin Innocence Project showed that Ott did not rape Payne, according to court documents.

Ott was freed from prison in 2009 after the state dropped its case against him and an appeals court ordered a new trial, according to court records. He sued the city the same year, contending that Milwaukee police detectives had framed him.

Authorities believe Payne was murdered by convicted serial killer Walter Ellis. DNA linked Ellis to Payne's death, but he was never tried for killing her. Ellis, who died in 2013, was serving life in prison for strangling seven women in Milwaukee.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Sandra Maler)