FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Forrest County settled Monday with the families of three men wrongfully convicted of rape and murder after nearly 12 hours of negotiations in federal court.
"Forrest County would like to announce that the litigation involving the exonerations of Larry Ruffin, Philip Bivens, and Bobby Ray Dixon for the 1979 rape and murder of Eva Gail Patterson has been settled," said David Hogan, president of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors. "The County's insurers have agreed to cover nearly two-thirds of the total $16.5 million settlement and all of the County's litigation expenses to date. While the County's $5.4 million contribution to the settlement is certainly substantial, it represents a fraction of the average settlements and jury verdicts obtained in similar cases around the country. Balancing the interests of justice and the burden on taxpayers is never an easy task, but the Board of Supervisors is confident that this settlement represents the best possible outcome for the Forrest County taxpayers."
The families of Phillip Bivens, Bobby Ray Dixon and Larry Ruffin, including Ruffin's two daughters, were in court Monday attempting to settle with the city of Hattiesburg, Forrest County, seven insurance companies and three individual defendants for the three men's wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
Ruffin, Bivens and Dixon were charged with the 1979 rape and murder of Eva Gail Patterson. All three were sentenced to life in prison, and only a hung jury prevented Ruffin from being sentenced to the death penalty.
In 2010, The Innocence Project of New Orleans (IPNO) took on the case, tested DNA evidence collected from the victim and proved none of the men committed the crime.
Bivens and Dixon were exonerated in 2010 and Ruffin was exonerated posthumously in 2011. Ruffin died in prison in 2002, and Bivens and Dixon passed away after they were exonerated.