Lawsuit alleges Cincinnati police officers withheld DNA evidence in muder case

A lawsuit by Joshua Maxton claims Cincinnati police withheld DNA evidence and witness testimony, causing him to spend seven months in jail unnecessarily

Cincinnati Police headquarters - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Cincinnati Police headquarters

A man who says Cincinnati Police held him for months without probable cause following a fatal shooting has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court over the incident.

Joshua Maxton filed the suit on May 31 against CPD officers Jeff Gramke and Bill Hilbert, as well as the City of Cincinnati, alleging he was held for seven months after being arrested for in the shooting death of 18-year-old Robin Pearl, despite DNA evidence and witness testimony that suggested he was not the killer.

“Despite losing probable cause to continue to detain Mr. Maxton, the Cincinnati Police Department and two of its officers buried evidence of his innocence and caused him to be held for months and prosecuted him for a murder he did not commit,” the suit reads. Attorneys for local civil rights law firm Gerhardstein & Branch as well as the New York-based Innocence Project are representing Maxton.

Maxton says he was a bystander when Pearl was shot and killed in the passenger seat of an SUV parked in Avondale in June 2015. The intended target, driver Quinn Brown, identified Maxton as the shooter, and police arrested Maxton within 24 hours. But DNA from a soda can allegedly thrown away at the scene by Maxton matched another person, and other witnesses identified that person as the killer. In addition, the suit claims Brown changed his story several times about Maxton’s involvement. A year after the incident, Maxton was acquitted on eight charges, including murder. No one else has been charged with the killing.

The suit claims that CPD officers withheld the DNA evidence casting doubt on Maxton’s involvement, which was later discovered and presented by defense attorneys at trial.

“Defendants’ withholding of this material DNA evidence resulted in Mr. Maxton’s continued unlawful detention and malicious prosecution,” the suit claims. “Had the evidence not been uncovered during trial, Mr. Maxton could be spending life in prison for a murder he did not commit.”

Maxton’s suit seeks compensation for the time he spent in jail and for “emotional distress” related to his jury trial.

Cincinnati Police declined to comment on the case. CityBeat has reached out to the City of Cincinnati for comment and will update this story accordingly.

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