TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – An appeals court ruled Wednesday that an insurer does not have to cover a multimillion-dollar verdict against two former South Florida police officers who were found liable for sending a man to prison for a murder and rape he did not commit.
The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Anthony Caravella, who was convicted in 1984 at age 16 in the murder of Ada Jankowski in Miramar. DNA tests later showed that Caravella, who had a low IQ, did not commit the crime. He was released from prison in 2009 and exonerated in 2010.READ MORE: South Florida Students Face Serious Charges, Lifelong Consequences For School Threats
Caravella, who was 15 at the time of the murder, filed a civil lawsuit after his release against police officers involved in the case, alleging that they physically and verbally forced him to confess, according to Wednesday’s ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal.
A jury found that former Miramar officers George Pierson and William Mantesta violated Caravella’s rights and awarded $7 million in damages, Wednesday’s ruling said. The officers then filed a lawsuit arguing that the insurer Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London should cover the damages under liability policies obtained by the city of Miramar.
A circuit judge agreed with the officers and said the insurer was required to “indemnify” the officers for $5 million, the maximum amount of the coverage. But the insurer appealed, contending, in part, that the policies were not in effect when the misconduct by the officers occurred.
The policies were in effect from 2004 to 2010, with the officers arguing that Caravella’s incarceration during the period and “resulting continuous injuries triggered coverage under the policies,” according to Wednesday’s ruling.
But the appeals court rejected the officers’ arguments and overturned the circuit judge’s decision, saying that the action “giving rise to liability must happen during the period of insurance. Since it is undisputed that the officers’ misconduct occurred 20 years prior to the execution of the policies, there can be no duty to indemnify in this case.”READ MORE: 'He Understood Sacrifice': Former Florida Rep. Donna Shalala Remembers Bob Dole As Selfless War Hero
“(The) fact that Caravella suffered the consequences of the officers’ wrongful conduct throughout his incarceration, including while the subject policies were in effect, is irrelevant for purposes of determining whether the insurer has a duty to indemnify,” said the six-page ruling, written by Judge Dorian Damoorgian and joined by Judges Martha Warner and Alan Forst. “Likewise, the fact that Caravella was exonerated while the 2009 policy was in effect is of no consequence.”
Jankowski, 58, was raped and stabbed at a Miramar elementary school after leaving a bar in November 1983, according to a summary of the case by the National Registry of Exonerations, which is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at the University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and the Michigan State University College of Law.
Caravella was arrested in December 1983 on a separate issue and was questioned about the murder while in custody. He was convicted of the murder in August 1984 and was sentenced to life in prison, the summary of the case said. He had an IQ of 67.
In 2009, authorities said a DNA test showed that Caravella was not the source of sperm found in the victim’s body. He was released from prison in September 2009, and prosecutors dismissed the charges in 2010, according to the summary.
(©2021 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders contributed to this report.)MORE NEWS: Biden Administration Implementing New Travel Rules To Help Combat Spread Of Omicron Variant