CLEVELAND (AP) -- Two men are suing a disgraced former Cleveland police crime lab worker who helped put them in prison, alleging he fabricated evidence that led to their wrongful convictions for murder.
The lawsuit, seeking at least $1 million in compensatory damages, was filed Tuesday in federal court by Thomas Siller and Walter Zimmer, who each spent 13 years in prison for the 1997 beating of a woman who had employed them as handymen.
They say forensic analyst Joseph Serowik withheld information about blood evidence that would have pointed to a third suspect, Jason Smith, who implicated Siller and Zimmer in a statement but was actually responsible for the crime and later confessed to perjury and obstruction of justice, according to the lawsuit. The suit alleges that prosecutors didn't know Smith's statement was a lie because Serowik didn't tell them about blood on Smith's pants.
The lawsuit also names the city of Cleveland, which is accused of failing to properly train and supervise scientific examiners in the lab.
"Serowik's misconduct was repeated, blatant, and easily discoverable if there had been adequate supervision," the lawsuit states.
A spokeswoman said the city wouldn't comment on the pending litigation. A Cleveland phone number under Serowik's name has been disconnected, and court records in the case had no attorney listed for him.
Serowik was fired in 2004 over his work in a rape case that led to an audit of the crime lab. The conviction of Michael Green was overturned based on DNA evidence, and the settlement of his civil lawsuit included a provision that police laboratory work involving Serowik get an outside review.
A retired FBI agent reviewed Serowik's lab records and transcripts of trial testimony. He concluded Serowik didn't mislead any juries but did make misstatements during testimony, apparently unintentionally. The reviewer also criticized Serowik in some cases for not properly recording forensic data during testing.