David W. Boyce was sent to prison in 1991 — for life. Actually, he was hit with not one but two life terms, convicted of capital murder in the killing of his friend and then-roommate Timothy Askew. But he always claimed that he was innocent and finally, 22 years later, he proved it, exonerated by DNA evidence. But the case was even worse than a simple wrongful conviction, a well-intentioned mistake that ruined a man’s life.
Boyce says that the police in Newport News, Virginia railroaded him — on purpose. They held back evidence that they knew would have cleared him and even drummed up a phony “jail house snitch” to lie, testifying that Boyce confessed the murder to him out of the blue as he returned from the prison shower.
Those are the charges in a lawsuit David W. Boyce, now 44-years-old, filed last Tuesday, which specifically names two Newport News police officers, Thomas Bennett and Patricia Montgomery, who Boyce says lied, held back evidence, and misled witnesses in their zeal to send Boyce away for a crime he did not commit.
Now David Boyce wants compensation for the decades of his life he says were deliberately stolen from him, to the tune of $25 million.
Askew was robbed and stabbed to death at an Econo Lodge Motel in Newport News in 1991, where he and Boyce then lived together in one room. Askew was murdered in a different room, where he was partying and having sex with a man who was not David Boyce.
A hotel clerk saw a man with long hair skulking around the premises the night of the murder. According to Boyce’s lawsuit, Officer Montgomery claimed that Boyce had long hair when she fingerprinted him that same night, but that he cut it short immediately thereafter.
Boyce said that police took a Polaroid picture of him the night of the murder that would show he had short hair at that time. But police conveniently “lost” the photo for years.
In 2005, as Boyce and his attorneys fought to have his conviction thrown out, prosecutors turned over a batch of evidence that had not been made available to Boyce at his trial 14 years earlier. The Polaroid photo — showing Boyce with short hair — was in that file of evidence.
Boyce also learned that the “jail house snitch” Herman Elkins, who testified at trial that Boyce spontaneously confessed the murder to him through the bars of his cell, had recanted his story in 2004. But prosecutors had not revealed the recantation.
Also in 2004, DNA tests on blood and semen found in the room where Askew was murdered revealed the presence of another man — but none of Boyce’s DNA was a match.
“Boyce’s wrongful conviction and continuing incarceration were no inadvertent mistake,” the lawsuit says. “They were caused by the intentional, bad faith, or alternatively, reckless acts f defendant officers Thomas E. Bennett, the lead detective on the case, Patricia L. Montgomery, the evidence technician assigned to the case, as well as the intentional, bad faith, or alternatively, reckless acts of various former and/or current Newport News Police Department (officers).”
Boyce is lucky to be alive. Prosecutors sought the death penalty, but his trial jury decided on the double-life term instead.
Neither Bennett nor Montgomery still work for the Newport News Police Department, but the city will be on the hook for the $25 million if David W. Boyce prevails in his lawsuit for the 22 years of his life he can never get back.