LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A man who was convicted of killing two people following an investigation by a since disgraced police detective has filed a federal lawsuit against Louisville police, the city and several officers.
Keith West, who was pardoned last year by former Gov. Matt Bevin, served about seven years in prison and “lost decades of his life due to the egregious misconduct of (former Det. Mark Handy) and others in the Louisville Police Department," according to the suit.
In 2018, Handy was indicted on charges of perjury and tampering with evidence. The tampering with evidence charges stem from Handy's alleged actions during the West case.
The perjury charges is related to Handy's testimony and role in the 1995 murder case against Edwin Chandler.
Chandler spent nine years in prison for the murder, which a court later found he did not commit. He was exonerated in 2012. Metro Government went on to pay him $8.5 million.
West, 47, is the fourth person with a conviction involving Handy to be exonerated. Handy’s investigations are the focus of multiple wrongful imprisonment lawsuits.
While a Louisville judge last year refused to overturn West’s two 1997 manslaughter convictions, Bevin wrote on Dec. 9 that he was granting West a "full and unconditional pardon" and "restoring all his rights as a citizen."
West’s attorneys, and the new lawsuit, argue that Handy taped over recordings of two eyewitness statements and coerced them into specific testimony prior to trial.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court Tuesday, claims police withheld evidence and their “egregious misconduct” from the defense for years.
“Mr. West’s wrongful conviction was not by accident, but rather the result of systemic misconduct within the Louisville Police Department,” according to the suit, filed by attorney Elliot Slosar.
The suit claims Handy had a reputation within the department as a "closer," a detective who would do what needed to be done – withhold or fabricate evidence and coerce testimony – to get a conviction.
The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial and unspecified monetary damages.
Louisville police do not comment on pending litigation.
West was initially charged and convicted of two counts of murder after a double shooting in west Louisville in 1992. Gerald White and Kevin Harraway were killed. That case was thrown out on a technicality.
Facing another trial and possible conviction, West took an Alford plea to two counts of manslaughter in 1997, meaning he maintained his innocence but acknowledged there was enough evidence for a jury to convict him. West claims that he killed the men in self-defense because they were planning to rape him.
Handy is accused of hiding evidence and altering and influencing witnesses during the course of West's case.
On July 18, 2019, a witness came forward and revealed that Handy coerced him into giving a false and fabricated statement implicating West in the murders.
And in a hearing last year, several witnesses testified that Handy altered their recorded statements made shortly after the shooting occurred.
Handy’s criminal case is scheduled for trial in May.
Handy also played a central role in the investigation of two "satanic ritual" killings in Meade County. Jeffrey Clark and Keith Hardin were convicted for the 1995 murder of Rhonda Sue Warford. But then, in 2016, a judge threw out the conviction and the men were released
Clark and Hardin have since filed a federal lawsuit and accuse Handy of working with former Meade County Sheriff Joseph Greer, and others, to create a "false theory" that Clark and Hardin murdered Warford in a Satanic ritual killing.
When Handy failed to get the men to confess after falsely telling them they had failed a polygraph, Handy "simply fabricated inculpatory statements," including that Clark admitted sacrificing animals as part of a Satanic ritual and later decided that he wanted to "do a human," according to the lawsuit that is still pending.
This story may be updated.
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