Jamal Truelove Framed By Police, Awarded $10M After 6 Years In Prison For Murder He Didn’t Commit
After spending six years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, a San Francisco man has been awarded $10 million when a judge ruled that he was framed by the police.
Jamal Trulove’s wrongful conviction for the murder of his friend in 2007 was thrown out by an eight-member jury in Oakland, California. The jury heard three weeks of testimony and deliberated for two days before unanimously finding that the two lead homicide inspectors on the case — Michael Johnson and Maureen D’Amico — had violated Trulove’s rights by fabricating evidence against him and withholding evidence that might have helped him, SFGate reported.
Trulove had accused four San Francisco police officers of framing him for the murder which took place at the city’s Sunnydale public housing complex. Initially, Trulove was convicted in 2010. But was acquitted after a 2015 retrial. He pursued a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and county of San Francisco following his release.
All four officers Trulove accused are retired, and while two of them were found to have framed him, jurors found no wrongdoing by a third inspector, Robert McMillan, or by Officer John Evans, the crime-scene investigator. The city is responsible to pay the $10 million in damages.
Trulove, 33, was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison for the killing of a 28-year-old friend, Seu Kuka. Kuka was shot in the back on a San Francisco street on July 23, 2007. He also had several shots in the head. At the time, just one witness, then 24-year-old Priscilla Lualemaga, identified Trulove. She was the prosecution’s sole witness against Trulove, then 25. Lualemaga testified that she saw Trulove and Kuka argue and that Trulove chased him down and shot him.
“Her first identification was tentative, but she affirmed it after seeing Trulove three months later as a guest on the reality TV show ‘I Love New York 2,’“ SF Gate reported.
A state appeals court overturned Trulove’s conviction in 2014, after discovering the prosecutor had made an “unfounded claim to the jury.” The prosecutor told jurors that the neighbor had been threatened and risked her life by coming forward. Trulove got a second trial in 2015 and was acquitted.
The basis of his suit for damages was that police coerced the witness to identify him. U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers found this to be true. Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Inspector D’Amico “showed the witness a single photo of Trulove rather than the usual police practice of presenting photos of different people and asking the witness to identify the perpetrator,” Newsweek reported.
Gonzalez Rogers added that Johnson showed the same witness a suggestive photo array consisting of Trulove and other men the witness had already disregarded as being the shooter.
Gonzalez Rogers also said that despite having evidence that there was another possible suspect, the police never investigated. During the hearing, Truelove told the judge and jury about his life in prison, saying that he felt “fear from the time you get up,” and daily humiliation.
Trulove, who works at an after-school program for at-risk children in San Francisco, broke down in tears when he heard about the $10 million damages award.
“When we won the acquittal for Jamal for a crime that he didn’t commit, that wasn’t really justice, that was what should have happened,” said Trulove’s attorney, Alex Reisman, in KQED radio interview. “But when he won this verdict, I think he feels that at least some measure of justice was done for him.”