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Last updated on Friday, February 21, 2014
(ELKHART) - A northern Indiana woman has filed a federal lawsuit against two police officers over the faulty fingerprint evidence that led to her spending eight years behind bars for the killing of a blind 94-year-old woman.
Lana Canen of Elkhart was released from prison in 2012 when a judge overturned her murder conviction after experts determined that an Elkhart County sheriff's detective had misidentified a fingerprint found in the slain woman's apartment as one from Canen.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in South Bend claims Canen suffered false imprisonment because Det. Dennis Chapman wasn't qualified to identify fingerprints and misled prosecutors. The suit blames the other officer for vouching for Chapman as a fingerprint analyst.
Chapman's attorney, Michael DeBoni, tells the South Bend Tribune his client didn't intentionally violate Canen's rights but that he had not yet closely reviewed the lawsuit.
Canen was convicted in 2005 on murder charges in the Thanksgiving Day 2002 slaying of Helen Sailor in the Elkhart apartment building where they both lived.
Canen maintains that she had nothing to do with killing Sailor. At her trial, prosecutors said she conspired with her co-defendant, Andrew Royer, to rob Sailor, and that Royer strangled the woman.
Royer remains in a state prison under a 55-year sentence.
Canen said that during her years in prison she missed her daughter's wedding and her grandson grew from a toddler to a 10-year-old boy.
"I'm trying to reconnect, get those relationships back," she said.
Canen lived with her mother for a time after her release, but now has her own apartment. She said she still wants compensation for the eight years she was imprisoned and for someone to take responsibility.
"I basically had to start my life over," Canen said.
Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill said the fingerprint was a central part of the case against Canen and that without it, he couldn't prove she was involved in the attack.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
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