Man exonerated through NU’s Center on Wrongful Conviction files lawsuit

Fathma Rahman, Reporter

A man exonerated of a murder charge last year with the help of Northwestern’s Center on Wrongful Convictions has filed a lawsuit against those involved in the trial.

Jamie Lee Peterson was charged with the 1996 murder of Geraldine Montgomery after investigators manipulated and coerced him into confessing to a crime that he did not commit, Gretchen Helfrich, Peterson’s attorney, told The Daily. Peterson was exonerated of the charge after DNA tests taken in 2013 proved that he was not responsible for the rape or murder of Montgomery.

Jason Ryan, who had previously been cleared in 1996 of raping Montgomery, was arrested in December 2013 in connection with Montgomery’s death. Last week, he was found guilty of raping and murdering her.

Now, his attorneys are suing those who they say are responsible — Kalkaska County, the village of Kalkaska, the prosecutor and several law enforcement officers involved in the trial — on grounds of a flawed investigation. The lawsuit was filed last month.

Peterson, who has intellectual disabilities, spent almost 18 years of his life sentence in prison for the charge of murdering Montgomery before he was cleared of the crime last September.

“Investigators, police officers and prosecutors have an awful lot of power,” Helfrich said. “And when they exceed it, it’s particularly egregious. These are the people who we trust to maintain order and there has to be some accountability for them to abide by the rules, collectively, as a society, have put on them, including the rules in the constitution.”

Twitter: @fathma_rahman