A Washington, Sheriff’s detective was so sure Clyde Spencer was sexually abusing children that she made up dozens of false quotations and attributed them to his children, according to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Those lies coerced him into entering a no-contest plea and spend nearly 20 years in prison. He deserves the $9 million in compensation a jury has already awarded him.
There appears to be no question that Clyde Spencer is innocent of the allegations that he molested his son and daughter, although it’s true that a stepson’s allegations were never resolved. It’s also clear that Sheriff’s Deputy Sharon Krause took a variety of illegal and immoral steps to frame him.
He had been sentenced in 1985 to life sentences plus 171 months in prison for three counts of child molestation. After the facts came out about Krause, however, his innocence was clear enough that the governor of Washington commuted his sentence in 2004. The charges were dropped altogether in 2010.
The year after the charges were finally, irrevocably dropped, Spencer sued Krause and the Clark County Sheriff in federal court over the fabricated evidence. A jury issued a $9 million compensation award. Unfortunately, the judge refused to allow that verdict to go through. He insisted that the defense was entitled by law to win — because Spencer couldn’t prove they knew or should have known he was innocent.
What were all the lies and fabricated quotes for, if Krause didn’t know or have reason to believe Spencer was innocent? Extra thoroughness?
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found the lower court’s ruling ridiculous.
“Krause’s investigative reports contained scores of quotations attributed to [his children], both of whom unequivocally testified at trial that they had never made those statements,” reads the appellate court ruling.
“[His daughter] told Krause that no abuse had occurred. Krause falsely reported, in quotations attributed to [the daughter], that [the daughter] had made detailed, explicit statements of abuse.”
Spencer couldn’t prove that Krause knew or should have known he was innocent? That might be relevant in a case where there was no direct proof the investigator had lied. In this case, however, there was ample evidence of fabrication, making it obvious he was falsely convicted.
The appellate court ordered the $9 million jury verdict to be reinstated.