Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Autism: Man, Wrongly Jailed for Murder, Wins Settlement

Ozem Goldwire in 2007, after he was released from jail. Under interrogation, he had falsely confessed to killing his sister, Sherika Goldwire, in 2006.

A 31-year-old autistic man who, after 17 hours of questioning from detectives, confessed to murdering his sister in 2006, only to be released later when it turned out he was innocent, will receive $190,000 and payments from a $150,000 annuity under a settlement with the city.

The man, Ozem Goldwire, discovered the body of his sister, Sherika, on Jan. 2, 2006 at the home they shared in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He called 911.

After intense questioning from detectives, he eventually said that they had argued two nights earlier over the television volume, that he had hit her with a cookie tin and that he then strangled her.

But Mr. Goldwire soon retracted the confession — there is no record of his interrogation — and a psychologist hired by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office found that, although Mr. Goldwire had normal intelligence, he was highly suggestible and eager to please. “It is likely that he wanted to meet the needs of the detectives as a well as to bring the interview to an end,” the psychologist wrote.

Meanwhile, Mr. Goldwire spent more than a year in jail at Rikers Island, awaiting trial on charges of second-degree murder, for a crime he did not commit, before Justice Gustin L. Reichbacht threw out the charges.

Mr. Goldwire subsequently sued the city, accusing the Police Department and the Brooklyn district attorney’s office of improper conduct.

In a settlement announced this week — and reported by The Daily News — the city agreed to pay Mr. Goldwire and his lawyers a $190,000 settlement up front.

In addition, the city agreed to establish a $150,000 annuity to protect Mr. Goldwire’s interests; he will receive monthly payments from the annuity for 30 years beginning in 2019.

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