MT. STERLING, Ky. (WKYT) - A Kentucky man who was incarcerated two years for a murder that was eventually dropped has now filed a lawsuit one year after he was exonerated, and he is accusing detectives and prosecutors of a scheme to wrongfully convict him in a death penalty case.
Defense investigator Joshua Powell says one of his clients Nickie Miller, 56, filed a federal lawsuit claiming he was wrongly accused of murdering Paul Brewer at a Montgomery County home in 2011. Investigators say Brewer was found shot in his bed. Miller is being represented by Chicago law firm Loevy & Loevy.
Defendants in the case include Montgomery County Sheriff Fred Shortridge and deputies Mark Collier and Ralph Charles Jr. along with county jailer Eric Jones, Commonwealth Attorney Keith Craycraft and Kentucky State Police polygraph examiner John Fyffe.
Miller claims law enforcement conspired to charge him based on fabricated evidence. One of the accusations involves Fyffe inappropriately touching Natasha Martin, who said she had no first-hand knowledge of the crime, in an effort to encourage her to repeat a "false and fabricated statement" implicating Miller. One of the Montgomery County detectives threatened Martin by saying she needed to think about "those three babies at home" when she was being pressured to give a false statement. Fyffe would then threaten to take Martin's children away if she didn't make the false statement, which he eventually obtained after additional coercion.
Fyffe would say in the video obtained by WKYT Martin failed the polygraph test. The obtaining of a statement did not appear in the video, and Martin repeatedly declined knowledge of being present for the murder.
Deputies were eventually able to charge Miller for the murder and robbery of Brewer in November 2015 and arrested him. Miller was eligible for the death penalty.
Using the false statement, deputies also charged Cody Hall and Natasha Martin in the murder. Correspondence between the two, who were married at the time, would state Martin's claims were false. The written messages also stated Hall was innocent, but he remains in state prison as the arrest violated his parole.
The lawsuit also states Commonwealth Attorney Keith Craycraft encouraged Martin to destroy the correspondence exonerating Miller in her possession after her release from jail. Craycraft was able to convince Martin to destroy the evidence even though there was a court order to preserve it. The lawsuit claims there are also telephone records confirming the accusations.
Two years later, the Commonwealth moved to dismiss the charges against Miller.
Miller is seeking a jury trial on numerous counts, including malicious prosecution, fabrication of false evidence and conspiracy to deprive constitutional rights.
"The defendants succeeded in manipulating the justice system for several years, including falsely accusing Mr. Miller of capital murder and seeking the death penalty against a clearly innocent man," defense investigator Joshua Powell said. "Mr. Miller has suffered tremendous damage, mental suffering, cancer recurrence and loss of a normal life, all caused by the defendants' misconduct."
Martin is still charged in the murder case but is out on bond.
In a statement, Paul Brewer's daughter Janet Blankenship said the lack of a conviction in the murder case is "100 percent the investigators' fault."
"Martin could not have done all that alone and due to the investigators not being able to do their job, everyone else is walking free," Blankenship said.
WKYT has attempted to contact all defendants for a comment on the lawsuit.
Kentucky State Police and Montgomery County Jailer Eric Jones have confirmed they are aware of the lawsuit but have not issued a comment on the case at this time. Kentucky State Police confirmed Fyffe is still an employee with the agency.