Susan Jean King

One-legged woman cleared of murder can sue detective who supposedly framed her

A one-legged woman who was exonerated for murder after serving six years in prison was given the green light to sue the Kentucky detective she says railroaded her. 

On Monday, a US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Susan Jean King can sue Lt. Todd Harwood for malicious prosecution. The Courier-Journal reported the then-sergeant lied when he testified that was impossible to ascertain whether the bullets in Kyle Breeden’s skull matched ones found on King’s floor.

Louisville Judge Danny Boggs wrote to the three-judge panel that a state police forensic examiner specifically told Harwood the bullets weren’t a match.

In a 2014 profile of the case, The Washington Post detailed that King weighed 97 pounds and had one leg—facts omitted from Harwood’s testimony—when she was accused of throwing Kyle Breeden’s body off a bridge.

Breeden’s murder went unsolved for eight years until Harwood was assigned to the case. It took 21 days for Harwood to identify King as Breeden’s murderer.

In 2008, King pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree manslaughter and accepted a 10-year sentence. She claimed took the plea deal to avoid a life sentence for murder. King completed her sentence in 2012 after serving six years. 

On May 4, 2012, a serial murderer named Richard Jarrell confessed to a detective that he killed Breeden. Harwood is accused of not only declining to interview the new suspect but intimidating him into recanting his confession. According to The Post, Louisville Detective Barron Morgan took the suppressed evidence to the Innocence Project.

Morgan was supposedly relegated to patrol officer on the graveyard shift for releasing this information.

“Barron Morgan was absolutely the hero of this story,” King told The Post. “Without him sticking his neck out and doing the right thing, we would not have had the information about Richard Jarrell’s confession.” 

Though a judge couldn’t grant a new trial due to her guilty plea, the Kentucky Court of Appeals overturned King’s conviction in July 2014—calling it an “egregious violation.” Morgan also awarded $450,000 in April 2014 after successfully arguing that his punishment was in violation of the state’s whistleblower protection act.

Hardwood, who is still on the force, also alleged King cleaned the kitchen floor—leading to a tampering with physical evidence indictment. Judge Boggs also noted that officials found no traces of cleaner on the floor.

“We’re very pleased with the decision,” King’s lawyer, Thomas Clay told The Courier-Journal. “It returns Susan Jean King’s case to court, where hopefully a jury will agree with us that the actions by Kentucky State Police were truly outrageous.”

[Feature Photo: Kentucky State Police]