MPD wrongful arrest suit settled - Tucson Local Media: Import

MPD wrongful arrest suit settled

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Posted: Wednesday, March 10, 2004 12:00 am

A Northwest man who spent 23 days in jail for two armed robberies he didn't commit has dropped the wrongful arrest lawsuit he filed against Marana, Tucson and their police departments.

Justin Kitts agreed last month to end the suit he filed in May after store surveillance photos of one of the the robberies showed the gunman's arms covered by a shirt with mid-length sleeves.

A key argument for wrongful arrest in the suit was that police should have ruled-out Kitts as a suspect because none of the witnesses recalled seeing the distinctive blue flame tattoos that ran the length of his forearms, said Brad Thrush, Kitts's attorney.

"Given the fact that the strongest part of the failure of identification wasn't visible to the person that was looking at the barrel of the gun, there's not much we can do to sustain a case," Thrush said. "I still think (police) should have done a better job."

MPD spokesman Sgt. Tim Brunenkant said Marana had not received official notification that the suit had been settled and could not comment on the case.

According to Thrush, both sides agreed last month to dismiss the suit and pay their own attorney's fees.

Kitts, 23, was arrested by Marana police June 4, 2002 and charged with the armed robberies of a shoe store in Marana and an ice cream shop in Tucson, both of which had occurred the month before.

Police eventually arrested 24-year-old Kevin Ryan Puckett for a string of robberies that included the two Kitts was accused of committing. Puckett received a 10-year sentence for armed robbery after a trial in Tucson last year.

Kitts could not be reached for comment last week, but in an interview last year he described his arrest as a "nightmare."

"I got arrested for 23 days for something I didn't do," said Kitts, who at the time of his arrest worked at a tattoo parlor on West Ina Road. "I was just going to lunch one day, the cops saw me and a couple days later I end up in jail. I told them what happened and it's like they didn't want to listen."

Kitts said two days before his arrest, MPD officers began intently staring at him and eventually questioned him at a Marana restaurant.

Kitts said the officers told him he resembled the description of a man sought for the robberies of the Payless Shoe Source at 3701 W. Ina Road May 17, 2002 and the Baskin-Robbins at 2648 E. Speedway May 20, 2002 and detectives would be contacting him soon.

According to the suit, Kitts repeatedly contacted the MPD before his arrest to protest his innocence and was "told not to call anymore."

Witnesses eventually picked Kitts out of a line-up and he was arrested, according to Tucson police.

The suit claimed Tucson police obtained DNA evidence from an ice cream spoon licked by the robber of the Baskin-Robbins and Kitts voluntarily provided a sample of his own DNA to try and clear himself. Kitts said in an interview the DNA was never tested.

Despite Kitts being identified in the line-up, the tattoos, surveillance camera photos and a lack of any other evidence should have cleared Kitts of the crime, the suit claimed.

Marshall Humphrey, Marana's attorney in the suit, could not be reached for comment.

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