After Spending 26 Years In Prison DNA Clears Mentally Challenged Man of Murder Charges, Jury Awards $7 Million

| by Karen Eisenberg

When he was only 15 years old, Anthony Caravella was taken into police custody for allegedly stealing a bike. In a bizarre turn of events, Miramar, Florida police officers, William Mantesta and George Pierson, coerced the mentally challenged Caravella into confessing to the rape and murder of 58-year-old Ada Cox Jankowski.

In 1984, Caravella was found guilty of the rape and murder of Jankowski and sentenced to life in prison.

In 2001, Caravella’s brother, Larry Dunlap, contacted reporters with the Sun-Sentinel and requested their help. As reporters investigated, they found the case of Caravella very fishy and pushed local authorities to reexamine the evidence. With help from Chief Assistant Public Defender Diane Cuddihy, Caravella’s conviction was finally overturned.

Thanks to DNA evidence, Caravella was cleared of the murder of Jankowski, a crime he did not commit. The Sun-Sentinel reports that Caravella was released from prison in September 2009.

A lawsuit was filed against the officers who framed Caravella in 2013. Last Thursday, the jury decided that the officers must pay a total of $7 million to Caravella. The verdict includes $2.5 million in compensatory damages, $4.5 million in punitive damages and all attorneys’ fees and costs.

Caravella’s attorney, Barbara Heyer, is extremely pleased with the verdict. Heyer told the Sun-Sentinel, "The DNA exonerated him by confirming what we already knew — that an innocent 15-year-old was railroaded. The jurors vindicated him and now the appeals court has vindicated him."

Interestingly, according to the Sun-Sentinel, the same DNA evidence which cleared Caravella, linked another man, Anthony Martinez, to the murder of Jankowski. Only 17 years old at the time, Martinez was seen leaving a bar with Jankowski the night of her murder. Martinez died in 2012, just two months after being named a person of interest.

Sources: Sun-Sentinel

Photo: WikiMedia