- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Baltimore man freed after spending 19 years in prison in his girlfriend’s killing is now suing the city’s police department and the detectives who worked his case, accusing them of fabricating evidence and withholding proof of his innocence.

Sabein Burgess, 44, filed the civil rights lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department in federal court on Monday. It seeks unspecified damages.

A Baltimore police spokesman declined to comment Tuesday.

Burgess was 24 when he was convicted in the October 1994 shooting death of his girlfriend, Michelle Dyson, whose four children were home when she was killed. Burgess was exonerated and freed from prison last year after the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project took up his case and presented new evidence, including an affidavit from Dyson’s son that a man he saw barge into his mother’s home before she was killed wasn’t Burgess, and that he had told an officer just that the night of the shooting.

The lawsuit alleges that detectives conspired to fabricate gunshot residue evidence used to convict Burgess, and a different man implicated himself in the crime in 1998.

“Who knows what I could have been had I not been in prison for 20 years,” Burgess told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I have been deprived of life, of my family and everything else.”

The lawsuit alleges that detectives in Burgess’ case knew he was innocent but manipulated the evidence to secure a conviction. The lawsuit says the case is not an isolated event, but rather the result of the department’s “policies and practices of pursuing wrongful convictions through reliance on profoundly flawed investigations.”

Gerald Goldstein, a retired homicide detective who investigated the Burgess case and is named in the lawsuit, said Tuesday that if one of Dyson’s sons talked to any officers at the scene about seeing a man barge into his home, he would have known about it.

“There is absolutely no doubt,” about Burgess’ guilt, Goldstein said. “Every single thing that he told us, we proved he was lying … They must have really had the evidence against him for a Baltimore city jury to convict him.”

Goldstein citied inconsistencies with where Burgess said he was during the shooting and other statements.

Burgess is now working as an apprentice for a home improvement contractor and lives in Baltimore with his grown daughter, her two baby girls, and his girlfriend, also the mother of his daughter.

“I’m just trying to put the pieces back together and keep it together,” Burgess said. “Every day that I’m free and I wake up to see the sun, I feel blessed. I just smile and keep walking and always look ahead because I can’t look back.”

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Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

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