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Wrongly Accused Boy’s Suit Settled

April 29, 2002

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ The family of a 16-year-old boy wrongly accused in the slaying of a tourist settled a lawsuit with the city for $775,000, the family’s lawyer said Monday.

Brenton Butler’s family sued the police department in October for $8.5 million, claiming he was beaten, intimidated into a false confession and wrongly jailed for six months before trial in the May 2000 robbery-slaying of Georgia tourist Mary Ann Stephens. He was acquitted.

The lawsuit also alleged that racial profiling and inadequate training and supervision of detectives at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office led to the arrest and false imprisonment. Brenton is black; three of the officers are white and one is black.

The boy’s trial was subject of a documentary, ``Murder on a Sunday Morning,″ which won an Oscar this year.

The family settled because of concerns about how long the case would last and whether it could be proved under federal civil rights law, family attorney Tom Fallis said.

Rick Mullaney, the city’s general counsel, said: ``We believe this is a fair and just settlement.″

Stephens, 64, of Toccoa, Ga., was shot in the face outside a Jacksonville Ramada Inn. Butler, then 15, was arrested and identified by Stephens’ husband as the killer. Butler signed a confession, police said.

The prosecution’s case was plagued by a lack of evidence. The gun used in the slaying was never found. Butler’s fingerprints were not on the victim’s purse, and he did not have gunpowder residue on his hands or blood on his clothing. Other arrests have since been made.

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