Man freed from prison after 27 years sues police
Aug. 21, 2015
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — A man freed from prison after serving 27 years of a life sentence filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against police and prosecutors, arguing that they violated his constitutional rights.
Mark Schand is seeking unspecified monetary compensation from police in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Springfield, Massachusetts, and from the Hampden County District Attorney's office in Springfield.
"As a direct result of doctored and suppressed police reports, coerced and unreliable witness statements, improper identification procedures, and a general pattern of blatant disregard for the law ... Schand spent 27 years in prison for a murder, assault, and robbery he did not commit," the lawsuit says.
A spokesman for Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit. Officials with the Hampden County District Attorney's office and Hartford did not immediately respond.
The Hartford man has always maintained he didn't shoot Victoria Seymour in September 1986 outside the After Five lounge in Springfield in what police said was a drug-related robbery.
Schand, who was 21 when he was sentenced to life in prison without parole, was granted a new trial in 2013. A state judge considered newly discovered evidence, including testimony from three men who knew Schand and went to the lounge that night and didn't see him there. The prosecutor dropped the case weeks later.
Schand argues in the lawsuit that police disregarded standard witness identification procedures, coercing witnesses to identify Schand over other possible suspects, and doctored witness statements or withheld ones suggesting the shooter was someone other than Schand.
"The actions of these parties robbed Mark of the prime of his life — time that should have been spent with his wife and children, all of whom faithfully stayed by his side throughout his long ordeal," Heather McDevitt, a lawyer for Schand, said.