The Journal Sentinel by Bruce Vielmetti - April 28, 2011
Homicide was later linked to serial killer Ellis
A second man wrongly imprisoned for a murder later linked to convicted serial killer Walter E. Ellis has sued the City of Milwaukee and seven police detectives, contending they conspired to frame him for a 1998 homicide. William D. Avery, 39, had been convicted in 2005 in the death of Maryetta Griffin but was ordered released last year when DNA evidence from the crime was connected to Ellis, who had been arrested in 2009. In February, Ellis was convicted of strangling seven women around Milwaukee over two decades and sentenced to life in prison. In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Milwaukee federal court, Avery's five adult children contend that detectives made up an incriminating statement they attributed to Avery, then got other inmates to corroborate the false confession to Griffin's murder. The suit seeks unspecified damages for conspiracy, violation of civil rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress and other claims. Avery is represented by the same Chicago law firm that filed a similar lawsuit in 2009 on behalf of Chaunte Ott, who spent 13 years in prison for the murder of Jessica Payne, a 16-year-old runaway. Ott was freed after DNA from her body was later linked to Ellis. But authorities never charged Ellis with the murders of either Payne or Griffin. "Although Ellis has not yet been charged with Griffin's murder, the overwhelming evidence, including DNA, points to him being the murderer," Avery's attorneys said in a news release, which noted Griffin was strangled and found in the vicinity of four of Ellis' other victims, and like most of them, was a prostitute and drug addict. Avery said he had spoken with Griffin's relatives, and they believe Ellis was her killer. He said he is studying carpentry at Milwaukee Area Technical College, looking for a job and rebuilding his relationships with his children. "I can't get those six years I was in there back," he said, "but at least the truth will be out there." Avery was arrested shortly after Griffin's murder, but prosecutors didn't have enough evidence to charge him. Instead, Avery was convicted of drug-dealing charges in 1998 and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. But as soon as he got out in 2004, he was charged with first-degree reckless homicide in Griffin's killing after inmates with whom Avery had served time told authorities he had confessed. Avery was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to 40 years.A Milwaukee police spokeswoman did not return a message seeking response to the lawsuit.