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Jury awards $18.5 million to man cleared by DNA

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BYLINE: Laura Batchelor, CNN
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New York, NY

New York (CNN) -- A man who spent nearly 22 years in prison for a crime he did not commit was awarded $18.5 million by a federal jury.

Alan Newton, 49, was cleared by DNA evidence and released in 2006 from prison, where he was serving time for the rape and assault of a woman at a Bronx convenience store in 1984.

Newton started petitioning New York courts in 1994 to test the evidence for his DNA, but it took about 11 years and four formal filings and requests before authorities were able to find the rape kit, Newton's attorney, John Schutty, told CNN Thursday.

Newton, who received a 40-year-sentence in 1985, told CNN affiliate NY1 that he feels vindicated by Tuesday's decision.

"This says from a jury of my peers that we felt the system was wrong and we want to compensate you and we're also sending a message to the city," Newton said Wednesday.

"If you have DNA, you have the magic ability to prove right and wrong," Schutty said.

New York City's Law Department said it was "disappointed" in the Manhattan verdict and plans an appeal.

The Innocent Project took on Newton's case. Its website says Newton had an alibi and the actual perpetrator has not been apprehended.

The jury ruled that the city had violated his constitutional rights, and found two police officers liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress for failing to produce Newton's evidence when requested, the New York Times reported.

Newton, who said he intends to enroll in law school, said some relaxation is ahead first.

"I'm going somewhere hot and just taking time relaxing and letting it sink in for a little while," Newton told NY1.

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