A settlement of $2.7 million in the wrongful-conviction case of Lynn M. DeJac Peters has been reached between her and New York State.
DeJac Peters filed a claim against the state after being released from prison in November 2007, following nearly 14 years behind bars after being convicted in 1994 of strangling her 13-year-old daughter, Crystallyn M. Girard.
For years, the State Attorney General’s Office and DeJac Peters’ lead attorney, Steven M. Cohen, have been millions of dollars apart in agreeing on what would be an appropriate settlement for the time the Buffalo mother spent behind bars, while others raised her twin sons and another son.
“We have reached what we consider to be a fair settlement for the state’s role in this injustice. We still have suits against the County of Erie and the City of Buffalo for their greater and active participation in Lynn’s wrongful incarceration,” said Cohen, who released addition information at the Amherst offices of Hogan Willig this morning.
Cohen said during the 90-minute news conference that a vaginal swab was taken from Crystallyn after her death but has never been scrutinized, and that he believed there is a good chance it could be linked to Dennis Donohue.
Crystallyn’s body was placed in the same position as two women Donohue is either accused or convicted of killing, Cohen said. Donohue is serving 25 years to life in prison for murder of Joan Giambra.
Those similarities along with the unscrutinized swab, the attorney said, point to a cover up by investigating Buffalo detectives, former Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark and his lead prosecutor, Joseph Marusak, who are being sued in federal court for $30 million.
Dejac Peters was freed from prison when a new autopsy concluded that Crystallyn died not of strangulation, but of a cocaine overdose.
Originally, Cohen had complained about the state’s unwillingness to settle because the state maintained DeJac Peters may have killed her daughter. New evidence, however, was discovered Sept. 28, Cohen said, that leaves no doubt that Dennis P. Donohue committed the slaying.
“That evidence compelled a swift and fair settlement,” Cohen said, explaining that the evidence, which he would not disclose Monday, now strengthens the civil cases against the county and city in U.S. District Court.
Donohue had been Dejac’s ex-boyfriend. New DNA tests years after the murder showed he had been in the girl’s bedroom before her body was found.
The original complaint against the state had sought $1 million for each year of DeJac Peters’ wrongful imprisonment for a total of $14 million in damages.
Cohen noted that in addition to the county and city, he is suing several individuals, including former Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark III, in federal court to prove there was “a massive cover-up or at the very least profound negligence.”
Donohue is currently in state prison for 25 years to life for the murder of Buffalo resident Joan Giambra. Donohue was convicted of second-degree murder in the strangulation of Giambra, whose killing had many similarities to Crystallyn’s death.
“Had the Buffalo police arrested Donohue in 1993 for the murder of Crystallyn, he would not have been at large to kill at least one other woman we know of, Joan Giambra,” Cohen said.
Attorney Corey Hogan pointed out that the recently discovered evidence was “there to be found in February of 1993, but for reasons that have not yet been explained was overlooked.”