“Forensic Defendants” Dismissed from Wrongful Conviction Suit

On December 9, 1982, a victim was raped and stabbed multiple times in her Baton Rouge residence.  In those harrowing moments, the victim was face-to-face with her assailant and vowed that she would remember the characteristics of her assailant in the unlikely event she survived. A friend arrived at the residence and entered the second-floor room containing the assailant and the wounded victim.  Fortunately, at that moment, noise from a postal employee caused the assailant to flee the scene. The investigation began that same day.

Sometime later, Archie Williams became a suspect and was then criminally charged after the victim identified Mr. Williams as her attacker. The victim identified a prominent scar on the assailant which, in an unfortunate twist of fate, tended to match a scar on Mr. Williams.  Several of the governmental officers involved in the investigation and the April 1983 criminal trial of Mr. Williams were sued many years later in the case styled Archie Williams v. City of Baton Rouge, ET AL. Keogh Cox attorneys Drew Blanchfield, Collin LeBlanc, Cathy Giering, and Chelsea Payne represented a forensic scientist, a lab technician, and a print examiner in the suit (the “Forensic Defendants.”)  In his June 10, 2024 ruling, Judge Brian A. Jackson granted a Motion for Summary Judgment in favor of these defendants, dismissing the claims against them with prejudice. 

At the 1983 criminal trial, Forensic Defendants testified that they could not identify Mr. Williams as the attacker. Similarly, both the prosecutor and defense counsel advised the jury that the physical evidence did not implicate Mr. Williams. Nevertheless, Mr. Williams was convicted based upon the passionate but mistaken testimony of the victim.  Mr. Williams had not committed these crimes but remained incarcerated until his release decades later.

Mr. Williams consistently denied guilt. In 2008, he hoped DNA testing would help to prove his innocence.  However, the DNA evidence was of no assistance. In 1999, The FBI launched its National Fingerprint Database (“IAFIS.”)  Yet, a 2009 search generated no matches to fingerprints from the crime scene that had not already been identified. In 2014, Next Generation Identification (NGI) replaced IAFIS.  By 2016, NGI held approximately 72,000,000 criminal fingerprints and 50,000,000 civil fingerprints.  A 2019 search of this ever-expanding database matched fingerprint evidence taken from the 1983 crime scene to the prints of a convicted rapist who had died in prison years before. Mr. Williams was innocent and was soon released through a joint filing by the State of Louisiana and Mr. Williams. His lawsuit against multiple defendants followed.

In response, the Forensic Defendants filed a Motion that advanced the “qualified immunity” granted to governmental officials. In opposition to the Motion, the plaintiff possessed the burden: 1) to raise a fact dispute on whether his constitutional rights were violated by the defendants’ individual conduct; and 2) to show those rights were “clearly established” at the time of the alleged violation. The Court found that the plaintiff did not meet this burden.  Although Plaintiff alleged that certain fingerprint evidence had been “suppressed” in violation of the “Brady Rule,” the Court cited the robust factual record showing that the jury was fully aware that no fingerprint evidence identified Mr. Williams and that unidentified prints were present at the crime scene.  The Court also rejected the claim that there was any fabricated exculpatory blood or serology evidence. 

The facts in Williams highlight the great technological improvements since the early 1980s which now aid the court system, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to protect against the conviction of an innocent suspect.  These facts also tell a sad human story of an individual who spent more than 30 years in jail for a crime he did not commit.  While it does not replace the lost years, Louisiana has created a fund which provides some financial resources to wrongfully convicted individuals to help them re-enter society. Williams was able to take advantage of this fund.


Archie Williams v. City of Baton Rouge, ET AL, United States District Court, Middle District of Louisiana, No. 3:20-cv-00162.


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