Last fall, a jury awarded Alan Newton $18.5 million for his wrongful rape conviction. Last week, a Manhattan federal judge denied him the money.

Judge Shira Scheindlin, in a 31-page decision, determined that Newton’s civil rights were not violated so he didn’t deserve the award. “It is not enough for Newton to have shown that the city’s post-trial evidence management system is disorganized,” she wrote. “As disturbing as such negligence may be, in the end, that is what it is: mere negligence.”

Naturally, this was very disturbing news to Newton. “The court’s decision overturning the judgment in my case not only negated the jury’s thoughtful deliberation, where they found reckless indifference on the city’s part in locating evidence my case,” Newton said in an email, “this decision also says that New York State has no duty under Criminal Procedure Law Section 440/30 to actually provide DNA or any other evidence for testing, per an incarcerated prisoner’s request.”

Newton spent 22 years in prison primarily because critical evidence that would have exonerated him- a rape kit-was not found. The po- lice claimed it was lost.

According to Newton’s attorney, John Schutty, the police had the evidence in their possession all along. “It wasn’t simply that they couldn’t find it-they lied.”

Thanks to the diligence of the Innocence Project, the rape kit was found in a Queens warehouse in 2005, producing the DNA evidence to free him a year later. Since his

release, Newton has completed a degree at Medgar Evers College, is currently a research associate at the Black Male Initiative of CUNY and was hoping to use the award to pay for his law school tuition.

Now it’s back to court, as Schutty plans to appeal the decision.

“We believe that the trial judge’s decision to reject the jury verdict after a four-week trial and dismiss Mr. Newton’s complaint after a four-year litigation is both wrong and shocking,” Schutty said via email.

Schutty said that Scheindlin’s May 12 opinion “reflects an inex- plicable 180-degree turnaround in her previous beliefs [expressly memorialized in her prior rulings in the action].” Scheindlin had previously ruled that Newton had presented factual evidence that required a resolution by a jury trial, and she had ruled that the city of New York had a duty to produce the exculpatory evidence that would prove Newton’s evidence when he first demanded it in 1994.

“Now Judge Scheindlin has ruled, contrarily, that the city had no constitutional duty to produce the DNA evidence in its possession to Mr. Newton, and that the city committed, at best, ‘mere neg- ligence’ in handling the DNA evidence, rather than the ‘recklessness’ that the jury found at the conclusion of the four-week trial,” Schutty asserted.

Scheindlin’s opinion, he continued, “runs counter to recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent that clearly states that a prisoner who satisfies state procedures for requesting post-conviction DNA testing has a procedural due process right to receive the evidence in question.”

Schutty said, “We are exploring Mr. Newton’s legal remedies from the May 12 decision of the trial court, but an appeal to the U.S. Court of Ap- peals for the Second Circuit is likely.”