City Settles With Cedric Willis | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

City Settles With Cedric Willis

The Jackson City Council voted tonight to settle Cedric Willis' case against the city for his wrongful arrest for murder and rape.

Willis, who served 12 years in prison until he was exonerated in 2006, sued the city of Jackson in 2007 for $36 million for wrongful arrest. When Willis left prison, he had received no education, no job training and had not a penny to his name. He was exonerated because The Innocence Project showed that District Attorney Ed Peters' office did not present evidence in the original trial that would have proved his innocence. (Read the JFP story, Darkest Midnight, for the full background.)

The City Council authorized a $195,000 settlement at tonight's meeting. Pieter Teeuwissen, city attorney, told the Jackson Free Press that the city is denying any liability.

"I apologized to him on behalf of the city. I thought it was the right thing to do," Teeuwissen said. "Mr. Willis has suffered an unmeasurable wrong."

Willis' attorney, Rob McDuff, sent us a statement about the settlement.

"This settlement of Cedric's federal constitutional claims is not what he should have received, but there were certain factors that required us to compromise," McDuff wrote.

"Cedric already had received compensation for his state law claims. We could not sue the culprits most responsible — former prosecutors Ed Peters and Bobby DeLaughter — because of the legal doctrine of prosecutorial immunity. While we believe city police officers also were responsible, a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision makes it harder to win a case against the City. So this was a reasonable compromise in light of the circumstances," McDuff continued.

"Cedric is an innocent man who should not have had to endure 12 years in prison. But he is a strong person, with a good heart and a good mind, and he is moving on with his life."

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