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California County Pays $11m to a Wrongly Convicted Man Who Served 20 Years for 1998 Murder

A California county has settled $11 million to a man who was jailed for two decades after he was wrongly convicted of killing his girlfriend in 1998. 

According to a Riverside Press-Enterprise report on Tuesday, this payment settles Horace Roberts’s federal lawsuit against Riverside County and its sheriff’s department accusing them of fabricating the murder case against him.

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In 2019, Roberts, a 64-year-old Marine Corps veteran now residing in South Carolina, filed a case, implicating the investigators’ neglect to turn over key evidence to prosecutors. He alleged in his lawsuit that the Riverside County sheriff’s investigators framed him for the murder of his 32-year-old girlfriend and coworker, Terry Cheek last April 14, 1998. He added in his case that the investigators essentially ignored all the evidence pointing to the real suspects.

Roberts was absolved and freed after DNA tests of the crime scene suggested two other suspects. The DNA evidence obtained by the California Innocence Project linked Googie Harris, Sr., the victim’s estranged husband, his son Googie Jr., and nephew Joaqin Leal. This evidence then led to the arrests of Harris and Leal.

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Before he was arrested and imprisoned for 20 years, Roberts was a 40-year-old father of two and was employed as a supervisor at Quest Diagnostics in San Juan Capistrano, where he worked for a decade and met the victim, Terry Cheek. Roberts was also in service for 8 1/2 as a Marine Corps before he was honorably discharged in 1987, according to his lawsuit.

In the same lawsuit, it was indicated that no evidence at the scene has tied him to the killing. Roberts was discharged from Avenal State Prison on Oct. 3, 2018, after he was declared as factually innocent by a Riverside County Superior Court judge. Stay tuned to our website to get the latest and updated news from our experienced journalists. 

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