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Testimony Begins In Michael Crowe Case

The attorney for a man who was wrongfully accused of killing his 12-year-old sister began presenting testimony today that he hopes will convince a judge to formally declare his client's innocence.

Michael Crowe was 14 when he was arrested and charged with the stabbing death of his sister, Stephanie, at the family home in Escondido on Jan. 20, 1998. His friends, Joshua Treadway and Aaron Houser, then both 15, were also charged in the killing. Treadway has joined in the motion for a finding of factual innocence.

Attorney Milton Silverman said Crowe, now 28, wants the judicial finding to clear his name and record.

Crowe confessed to killing his sister, but that confession was later ruled to have been coerced in harsh interrogations by Escondido police detectives and an Oceanside police officer assisting them.

Treadway's attorney, Mary Ellen Attridge, testified today that Treadway told her his "confession'' was false.

Attridge said prosecutors from the District Attorney's Office at one point offered to dismiss the charges against her client if he would testify against Michael Crowe, which Treadway said he would never do.

Later, DNA evidence connected Richard Tuite, a mentally ill transient now in his early 40s, to the murder scene. He was subsequently convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to prison, but that conviction was overturned based on a trial error. He remains in custody, awaiting a new trial.

The families of all three boys filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the cities of Escondido and Oceanside in 1999, claiming they were denied their rights against self-incrimination and false arrest. Key portions were thrown out by a judge in 2004 and 2005, but in 2010 a panel of judges with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal reinstated the bulk of the case.

Last October, the Crowe family settled the suit for $7.25 million. At the time, Crowe, who had moved to Oregon and was a first-time expectant father, said no amount of money would undo what police had done to his family. His mother told reporters the family was ready to move on and focus on the new baby.

Treadway previously dropped out of the lawsuit and Houser settled shortly before the Crowe family, but the terms of his settlement were not disclosed.

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