Dejac Peters settles state lawsuit for $2.7 million

Nov 13, 2012

Lynn Dejac Peters, the Buffalo woman who served more than 13 years in jail after she was convicted of murdering her daughter, has settled a lawsuit with the State of New York for $2.7 million. 

Dejac Peters's 1994 conviction for the strangulation death of 13-year-old Crystallynn Girard was reversed in 2007 based on DNA evidence.  That evidence pointed to an acquaintance, Dennis Donohue, as the murderer. 

Lynn Dejac Peters was released from prison in 2007.
Credit File photo

Donohue, who is currently serving 25 years-to-life in prison for the murder of another woman, Joan Giambra, in 1993, was given immunity at the time for testifying against Dejac Peters. 

Lead attorney Steven Cohen says the state conducted its own investigation into Girard's death and decided to settle the case Friday.

New evidence includes finding Donohue's sperm cells on Girard's body. Previously only the presence of skin cells were confirmed.

"We know a lot more now than we did, and we are grateful to the state for taking this information, not trying to cover it up [or] explain it away, but acknowledge that there was a grotesque injustice," Cohen said at a Tuesday morning news conference.

A federal lawsuit against the City of Buffalo, Erie County, and several individuals, including former District Attorney Frank Clark, is still ongoing.  Cohen says he believes Donohue's role in the murder was discovered and covered up because Donohue had ties to the police community.

"Dennis Donohue worked at the Southside Grill, which was owned by a former detective. It's a cop bar," Cohen said.

WBFO News is seeking comment on those allegations.

Cohen says it was  former Detective Dennis Delano who saw the connections between Giambra's murder, the 1975 murder of Carol Reed, in which Donohue is a person of interest, and Girard's murder.  The attorney says Delano noticed similarities in the positions and conditions of all three women when their bodies were discovered.

Dejac Peters maintained her innocence throughout her prison term.  She was the first woman ever released from prison based on DNA evidence.