Settlement of $3.4M Pending for False Conviction of Massachusetts Man

July 16, 2009

A Massachusetts town and five of its insurance companies have agreed to pay $3.4 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the estate of a man who spent 19 years in prison for a murder before being cleared by DNA evidence found in a box at a courthouse.

Kenneth Waters was convicted in the 1980 fatal stabbing of Katharina Brow, a customer at the diner where he worked in Ayer, about 35 miles northwest of Boston. He was sentenced in 1983 to life in prison.

His sister, Betty Anne Waters, a single mother and former high school dropout, put herself through law school to help him and eventually learned that a box of evidence with his name on it was sitting in a courthouse basement.

The box contained the knife used in the slaying and pieces of cloth with blood samples on them.

Kenneth Waters was released from prison in 2001 after DNA tests of the evidence cast doubt on his conviction. Prosecutors reviewed the case and dropped plans to retry him.

Waters died of a head injury six months after his release from prison when he fell from a 15-foot wall in Providence, R.I. He was 48.

Waters’ sister sued a former Ayer police chief and former special investigator, accusing them of botching the murder investigation that led to his arrest and conviction.

The settlement was announced Tuesday during a hearing in U.S. District Court, said Robert Feldman, one of the attorneys who represented Waters’ estate.

None of the defendants admitted liability.

Joseph Tehan Jr., a lawyer for Ayer, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Tuesday.

A sixth insurance company has not settled, but attorneys said negotiations are ongoing. Judge George O’Toole Jr. said if the two sides cannot reach an agreement, he will hold a trial next week.

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