She got compensation. Now she wants vindication. Lynn DeJac Peters got paid. Now she wants payback.
I am happy for her on the first count. I am sympathetic on the second.
DeJac Peters got a $2.7 million settlement Tuesday for nearly 14 years of wrongful imprisonment for her daughter Crystallyn’s 1993 murder. The day did not stop with a trip to the bank. Armed with fresh DNA evidence, DeJac Peters is charging ahead with a $30 million lawsuit against those she claims conspired to put her in jail – and to keep her there.
Primary targets are ex-District Attorney Frank Clark and ex-prosecutor Joseph Marusak. DeJac Peters claims they purposely failed to have crime-scene blood evidence tested and knowingly encouraged false testimony – then obstructed the cold-case investigation that five years ago led to her freedom. Clark and Marusak deny the allegations.
There is a thick line between massive ineptitude and conspiracy. DeJac Peters may have a tough time proving a cover-up, given unclear motives and intent. But this was a mess of a case that gave a free pass to Crystallyn’s possible murderer, Dennis Donohue. His bloody shirt and the girl’s blood-stained sheets were purposely, the lawsuit claims, not tested for DNA. The details of the complaint reek with instances of shoddy investigation, unpursued or withheld leads and misshapen testimony – all of it designed to railroad DeJac Peters to prison.
The awful part: It worked.
Now the victim is striking back.
Her point, I think, is well taken: The prosecutors’ single-minded pursuit was fueled more by self-righteous indignation over the then-single mom’s partying ways than it was by hard evidence of her guilt (frankly, there wasn’t any). DeJac Peters’ questionable parenting offended the moralistic sensibilities of Clark and Marusak, blinding them to the facts of the case.
The ex-DA and former top-gun prosecutor allegedly choreographed an investigation that shaped (or, sometimes, ignored) evidence to fit their DeJac-as-killer conclusion. Instead of looking at prime suspect Donohue, who stalked DeJac Peters that night, prosecutors astoundingly handed him immunity. It left Donohue free – nine months later, in a case with eerie parallels to Crystallyn’s – to murder Joan Giambra and leave her adolescent daughter for dead. Given what we learned in recent years, the cover-up claim is far from far-fetched.
DNA evidence unearthed five years ago placed Donohue at the scene of Crystallyn’s killing and freed DeJac Peters. Yet Clark, shamelessly and shamefully, insisted on retrying her. It was a vindictive, back-covering move that ended with the bizarre conclusion by a hired-gun pathologist that Crystallyn overdosed on “trace” amounts of cocaine. Ridiculous.
The so-called hunters are now being pursued by their game. If turnabout is fair play, it does not get much juicier than Clark and Marusak squirming in DeJac Peters’ cross hairs. If the complaint’s claims are true – and the previously reluctant state attorney general’s $2.7 million settlement only props them up – I have little sympathy for the lawsuit’s targets.
“We are looking,” said Chuck Peters, her husband, “for a little bit of truth and a whole lot of justice.”
Compensation of $2.7 million is nice. But vindication is priceless.