Man found guilty, then not guilty, of Watertown murder takes steps to sue

Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 3:17 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - A man who spent nearly three years behind bars for a Watertown murder, only to be found not guilty of the crime, is preparing to sue.

Christopher Swem told 7 News Tuesday he’s filing a claim against the state of New York. He’s seeking compensation for what he claims were an unjust conviction, wrongful imprisonment, emotional distress, damage to his reputation.

Swem, who now lives in Colorado, was charged in 2017 with fatally stabbing Shawndell Anderson at a house party on Moulten Street.

He was convicted in 2018 and sent to prison, only to have his conviction thrown out by a state Court of Appeals. At a subsequent trial in May of this year, a jury found Swem not guilty of the murder.

“They (the authorities) hear one name and they zealously go after you, and they don’t care about nothing else. All they want is a conviction,” Swem said Tuesday.

In all, Swem was locked up for 34 months.

“When you’re locked up, you constantly have to fear for your life,” he said.

Life on the outside has not been easy either.

Swem said he’s applied for 20 to 30 jobs with no luck.

“Something petty, like larceny, they’d probably let him slide. But when second-degree murder pops up, everybody’s like ‘oh, we don’t want this guy.’”

Winning a lawsuit will be difficult. The police and district attorney have broad protections under the law for doing their jobs, even if a case is subsequently thrown out or reversed.

But even if he loses, Swem says people will learn his story.

In response to the claim, Patty Dziuba with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office says the first conviction was justified based on the evidence presented, and does not feel there is any cause for action. She also wanted to remind people, the first conviction was tossed out because of an error by the judge, and not because there wasn’t enough evidence.

Copyright 2022 WWNY. All rights reserved.