Court orders Miramar to pay $3.6 million to wrongly convicted inmate who spent 26 years in prison

A Broward judge has ordered the city of Miramar to pay $3.6 million to Anthony Caravella, who spent nearly 26 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit before he was released in 2010.

Broward Circuit Judge Carlos Rodriguez said the city of Miramar is on the hook for nearly half of the $7 million judgment Caravella won in a federal case against the officers who allegedly coerced him into confessing to the 1983 murder of Ada Jankowski, 58. Caravella was 15 at the time, and mentally challenged, when Miramar police and the Broward Sheriff’s Office framed him for the slaying.

DNA evidence freed Caravella in September 2009 and he was formally exonerated six months later. The exoneration came after the South Florida Sun Sentinel and Caravella’s youngest brother raised concerns about the case in 2001.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court, and a jury found in Caravella’s favor in 2013, awarding him $7.5 million.

That judgment came against the two Miramar now-retired police officers accused of coercing a false confession from Caravella, which ended up convincing a jury to convict him. Of that judgment, $4.5 million was punitive and leveled against the officers personally. The rest was against them in the course of their official duties, and that’s where Caravella’s lawyers had to go to Broward Circuit Court to compel the city of Miramar to honor the judgment.

Rodriguez ordered Miramar to pay $2.5 million in compensatory damages and nearly $1.1 million in interest and attorneys’ fees.

“It’s frustrating not to see that judgment come to fruition,” said Donald Spadaro, an attorney acting as Caravella’s legal guardian. “We got that judgment in federal court 10 years ago and we’re still fighting for it.”

Spadaro said he is expecting the city of Miramar to appeal Rodriguez’s decision.

Caravella was the most prominent case in Broward County of a convicted inmate exonerated by DNA evidence. His lawsuit accused law enforcement of fabricating evidence and covering up information that would have cleared his name.

His lawyer, Barbara Heyer, declined to comment on the case Friday, She had also represented Jerry Frank Townsend, a mentally challenged man who won a $2 million judgment against the Broward Sheriff’s Office after he was exonerated by DNA. Townsend had spent 22 years of a life sentence for the murders of six women.

The 1983 murder of Jankowski remains unsolved. Testing in 2010 linked the DNA found on her body to Anthony Martinez, the victim’s neighbor. He was the last person seen with Jankowski alive. Martinez, 44, died of a heart attack in November 2010.

Rafael Olmeda can be reached at or 954-356-4457.

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