Free but Not Clear: Man wrongfully imprisoned for murder shares ordeal

(WSVN) - He was in jail for years for a crime he didn’t commit. Officials got it wrong, but he says the damage has already been done. 7’s Patrick Fraser has the special assignment report “Free but Not Clear.”

Ricky Davis is not in jail anymore, but he doesn’t feel like a free man.

Ricky Davis: “I can’t get nothing going. I mean, I’m marked as a murderer.”

Let’s back up to 1986, when a woman was murdered in an empty lot in Liberty City. A man just out of prison told police Ricky did it.

Ricky Davis: “I didn’t kill nobody.”

Police investigated. At that time, the Miami-Dade crime lab said Ricky’s blood didn’t match the blood on the victim, and there was no semen found on the swab from the woman.

No one was charged in the murder, and Ricky got on with his life.

Ricky Davis: “I had my own lawn service, my own car wash, my own tree service.”

Then in 2014, Ricky was playing dominoes at a Liberty City park when police showed up.

Ricky Davis: “They said, ‘We’re gonna charge you with murder.’ Huh?”

He was charged with the 1986 murder, locked up in the county jail — and his nightmare began.

Ricky Davis: “I’ve been in 25 fights. I went through hell in there.”

Ricky was also fighting in court. The records show 16 pages of motions and hearings, including Ricky’s five handwritten pleas demanding a speedy trial to prove he was innocent.

But nothing happened.

Ricky Davis: “Every time I reach the courtroom, [I was told], ‘OK, we’re gonna set it up for another date.’ Each time.”

The days and months rolled by. Torture for Ricky, as his sister and mother passed away.

Ricky Davis: “And they wouldn’t even give me a furlough to even go see them, and I kept begging them, ‘Please, let me see my momma buried.'”

Finally, after four years, Ricky says the state offered a deal: plead guilty to murder, and he could go free immediately.

Ricky Davis: “No, ’cause I did not kill this person, and I was not gonna take nothing.”

After two attorneys left his side, the court appointed a third one.

Ricky Davis: “Stephan Lopez. He did his job.”

Stephan Lopez says, as he looked at he case, he saw the state charged Ricky after sending the same sample from the 1986 crime to a private lab in Virginia to be tested for semen. Their findings baffled him.

Stephan Lopez: “Common sense tells me that the same sample can’t produce a different result.”

Lopez then hired noted DNA expert Kevin Noppinger, who compared the lab results from 1986 to the results from the private lab’s findings.

Kevin Noppinger, DNA consultant: “The original testing did not find semen. The DNA report that was done 26 years later actually had DNA profile of semen. Those results that they obtained basically were impossible.”

Impossible, Noppinger says, because a small sample that did not have semen on it in 1986 could not have semen on it decades later. The mistake that destroyed Ricky’s life.

Kevin Noppinger: “The end result was incarcerating an innocent man for four years.”

Ricky was then called to court again. Lopez wasn’t even told about the hearing.

Ricky Davis: “Then they turn around and say, ‘This case is dismissed. You can go home.'”

Patrick Fraser: “Did anyone say they’re sorry?”

Ricky Davis: “Nobody said nothing, nobody apologized, nobody did nothing.”

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office could not discuss the charges being dismissed because a memo closing out the case has not been written yet.

The crime lab that said Ricky’s semen was on the swab did not want to comment, but their disputed findings have changed the way Stephan Lopez views DNA evidence.

Stephan Lopez: “Everything I ever thought about DNA is questioned. I question myself now.”

Ricky was wronged, but back on the streets, nothing is going right for him.

Ricky Davis: “The reason why I can’t find a job, they go online, and when they pull my record up, it shows that I’m supposed to be a murderer.”

Lopez says he may sue for the years Ricky spent in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.

Meanwhile, Ricky wants people to know he was charged with murder, but he didn’t commit murder.

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