A 59-year-man exonerated last year after spending 36 years behind bars for a rape and stabbing in Baton Rouge that he didn’t commit is seeking compensation in a federal lawsuit.
Archie Charles Williams sued the city of Baton Rouge, former police detectives and ex-state crime lab employees, and then-East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office investigator and current District Attorney Hillar Moore III.
The lawsuit, filed by lawyer Jeffrey Mitchell, of The Cochran Firm New Orleans, alleges Williams’ wrongful conviction was “the calculated result of the coordinated efforts of the individual defendants … who engaged in … reckless and intentional conduct.”
That conduct was “deliberately calculated to, and did in fact violate Williams’ Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law,” the lawsuit claims.
Parish Attorney Andy Dotson said Wednesday the city-parish does not comment on pending litigation.
Moore, however, had plenty to say, calling the suit’s allegations “unsupported, baseless, false.”
“Each and every one of the allegations in this lawsuit are completely reckless, baseless and intentionally damaging,” he wrote. “I will properly and professionally respond to these allegations appropriately with facts and evidence at the appropriate time and will take action to remove these false allegations from this petition.”
Williams was convicted in 1983 for the rape and stabbing of a housewife at her home in the Hundred Oaks area of Baton Rouge after she identified him in a photographic lineup. Eleven of 12 jurors were convinced of his guilt and a judge sentenced Williams to life without parole.
Williams’ lawsuit claims former police detectives used “unduly suggestive identification procedures” that resulted in the victim’s “unreliable misidentifications” of him during several photo lineups. He had not been arrested at that time.
When the victim of the Hundred Oaks attack identified Williams as her attacker, she had already been shown his mug shot in photo lineups multiple times before — viewing more than 100 photos before finally making a positive identification.
The lawsuit also accuses Moore — an ex-District Attorney’s Office investigator who worked the rape case — and former Louisiana State Police Crime Lab forensic scientists and fingerprint examiners of wrongfully concealing or failing to disclose to prosecutors several items of “exculpatory evidence” recovered from or photographed at the crime scene.
Exculpatory evidence is evidence that tends to establish a criminal defendant’s innocence, or that may be material to the outcome of the case.
The lawsuit further alleges that a former State Police Crime Lab forensic scientist “deliberately created a misleading and scientifically inaccurate” report concerning evidence obtained from the victim’s rape kit.
The lawsuit was filed March 17 in federal court in Baton Rouge and has been assigned to U.S. District Judge John deGravelles.
Williams’ conviction, based almost solely on the victim’s positive identification of him, allowed the man officials believe is the real rapist — Stephen Forbes — to spend the next several years continuing to terrorize women across Baton Rouge.
Police finally arrested Forbes in 1986 after finding him at the scene of an attempted rape in progress. He later confessed to four additional rapes in the same area, some with distinct similarities to the Hundred Oaks attack.
Forbes died in prison in 1996 while serving 20 years on an attempted rape conviction. He had suffered from severe mental illness for decades before his death.
Recent developments in fingerprint technology matched Forbes to the attack on the housewife for the first time in March 2019, resulting in Williams’ exoneration that same month.
Prosecutors had not opposed a request from Williams’ attorneys for additional fingerprint testing, and after receiving the results, both sides filed a joint motion to vacate his conviction.
Moore apologized to Williams on March 21, 2019, during a hearing at which his convictions were vacated. He had been found guilty of aggravated rape, aggravated burglary and attempted first-degree murder.
“This is the right, honest, ethical and now factual thing to do,” Moore said at the hearing. “You are factually innocent, wrongfully convicted, and on behalf of the state, we apologize that you have suffered this.”
Several people testified at Williams’ trial that he was asleep at home when the December 1982 rape occurred, providing details about their schedules that all converged on that point — including which soap opera was on television at the time the woman was attacked.
Different descriptions of the attacker also were provided by the victim and her friend, who witnessed part of the crime when she dropped off the victim’s daughter at the house after school.