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'Egregious misconduct': 2 exonerated Louisville men to receive $20.5 million for 22 years spent behind bars

Keith Hardin and Jeffrey Clark were wrongfully convicted of the "heinous" and "satanic" murder of Rhonda Sue Warford in 1995.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The city has agreed to pay $20.5 million to two exonerated Louisville men who each spent 22 years behind bars for a murder they didn't commit. 

Keith Hardin and Jeffrey Clark were wrongfully convicted of the "heinous" and "satanic" murder of Rhonda Sue Warford in 1995. 

They were exonerated in 2018, with the help of The Innocence Project and the Kentucky Innocence Project, which presented DNA evidence disproving the convictions. 

Officials said the actual killer has never been brought to justice.

In a news release Friday, attorneys for Keith Hardin and Jeffrey Clark said "the settlement stems from egregious misconduct" committed by officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department, including a former LMPD detective Mark Handy.

According to the news release, the settlement comes after the two national legal teams, working with Louisville attorney Larry D. Simon, brought a civil lawsuit in 2018 presenting "overwhelming evidence of police misconduct and conspiracy to hide evidence" in the 1992 murder investigation. 

“Today’s settlement says loudly and clearly that Keith Hardin and Jeffrey Clark are innocent, and that Louisville detectives and supervisors responsible for this injustice will be held accountable,” Nick Brustin, a partner in Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, LLP, said. “This is only the first step in Keith and Jeff’s journey toward justice, and we look forward to proving at trial the complicity of Meade County and the State forensic examiner.”

The release goes on to say that throughout the 1990s, Handy's misconduct has sent "numerous innocent men to prison." Documents read that the former detective taped over recorded evidence and spewed "outright fabrications."  

"Despite officials’ knowledge of and complicity in these wrongful convictions, Handy continued to be rewarded and even promoted to Deputy Sheriff. To their credit, after Handy’s misconduct was brought to light by The Innocence Project and the Kentucky Innocence Project, Louisville officials brought charges against him; he was convicted of perjury in 2021 and sentenced to a year in prison," the release said.

"Louisville's current leadership is to be applauded for doing what they can to resolve the decades of injustice inflicted upon Jeff Clark and Keith Hardin," Elliot Slosar, of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law, said. "After years of litigation, the City of Louisville finally acknowledges in 20 million different ways that Jeff and Keith are innocent and that egregious police misconduct will no longer be tolerated."

Can't read Clark and Hardin's full lawsuit? Please click here

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