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John Floyd, a former Angola lifer, at the Innocence Project New Orleans on Tuesday, December 18, 2018. His case has finally been dropped by the District Attorney's Office.

A former Louisiana State Penitentiary inmate who had his murder conviction overturned has filed a suit in federal court, claiming he was wrongfully convicted after New Orleans cops beat him into confessing and prosecutors failed to seek out evidence that would have proved his innocence.

John Floyd, who spent 36 years at Angola before his conviction was overturned in 2018, alleges that he was railroaded by local law enforcement after the 1980 stabbing death of Times-Picayune proofreader William Hines in Hines' French Quarter apartment.

Floyd is seeking unspecified financial damages in the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo.

The civil rights lawsuit marks Floyd’s second trip through the federal court system. Last year, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision finding that Floyd was denied a fair trial and there was extensive evidence of his innocence.

The allegations in Floyd’s lawsuit track closely with the ones his lawyers at the Innocence Project New Orleans made for more than a decade while trying to win his release.

He claims the homicide detectives on the case, John Dillmann and Michael Rice, beat him until he falsely confessed to the killing of Hines and another man, Rodney Robinson, within days of each other around Thanksgiving in 1980.

A Criminal District Court judge acquitted Floyd in Robinson's killing but convicted him of Hines' killing.

The lawsuit says the cops knew from a witness who saw a man fleeing the scene of Robinson’s killing, as well as hair and blood evidence, that the most likely suspect in both murders was a black man with Type A blood, but instead they decided to pin the killings on Floyd, who is white with Type B blood.

“Floyd was an easy target: an indigent drifter with comprehension skills comparable to an 8-year-old, he was known around the French Quarter as an alcoholic and drug user who often frequented gay bars,” the lawsuit states.

Floyd now lives on a farm in Carencro and volunteers at an animal shelter.

Dillmann gave a brief statement Tuesday about the lawsuit. “I believe that his conviction being overturned was a travesty of justice, and I also believe that truth and goodness will always trump lies and evil,” Dillmann said.

Floyd’s lawsuit also alleges that the New Orleans Police Department compounded the injustice against him by failing to create a report on fingerprint evidence from a half-empty whiskey bottle in Hines’ kitchen, which was left by someone other than Hines or Floyd. Failing to create that report was standard NOPD practice, the suit claims.

While the bulk of the lawsuit focuses on alleged misconduct by the Police Department, Floyd also claims that prosecutors under former District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. had “a type of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy of failing to seek out any exculpatory information that was not affirmatively provided to them by the NOPD.”

Connick had “hostility” toward his constitutional obligation to turn over favorable evidence to defense lawyers, the suit alleges.

That was why prosecutors never followed up on the fingerprint evidence that could have been turned over to Floyd’s defense attorney, it says.

The lawsuit is at least the third instance in two years in which a former Angola lifer has targeted the New Orleans District Attorney's Office. Freed prisoners Jerome Morgan and Robert Jones also have lawsuits pending in federal court.

An office spokesman declined to comment on the latest lawsuit because it has not yet been served. Throughout years of appeals, the office always maintained that Floyd was the true killer.

The NOPD did not respond to a request for comment. Rice, as well as former Lt. Stephen London, an NOPD supervisor over both of the detectives named in the suit, could not be reached for comment.

Floyd’s attorneys are local lawyer John Adcock as well as the Neufeld Scheck & Brustin firm of New York City and the Lathrop Gage firm of Kansas City.


Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.