updated 8/31/2006 9:35:50 PM ET 2006-09-01T01:35:50

A Prince George's County jury awarded $6.38 million Thursday to a man who falsely confessed to killing his wife following 38 hours of interrogation by the Prince George's County police, according to the man's attorneys.

Keith Longtin spent more than eight months in jail after he told police he killed his wife, Donna Zinetti, in 1999 following a marathon interrogation in which he wasn't allowed to sleep. DNA evidence later exonerated Longtin and led to the arrest and conviction of a Washington, D.C., man.

Longtin's case was one of several in which the Prince George's police obtained false confessions through extensive interrogations.

It also became part of the Justice Department's probe of civil rights violations and excessive force by the county police, an investigation that led to a broad swath of reforms by the county. The police said in 2002 that they would begin videotaping interrogations to cut down on abuse.

The Circuit Court jury awarded Longtin $1.18 million in punitive damages and $5.2 million in compensatory damages, according to his lawyer, Timothy Maloney. Longtin filed the lawsuit in 2001.

"He's thrilled," Maloney said of Longtin. "He hopes it will signal an end to coercive interrogations."

Zinetti was found dead in the woods near her Laurel apartment on Oct. 4, 1999, after she went jogging. She had been raped and slashed in her face and throat 13 times. At the time she was separated from Longtin, an iron worker from Laurel.

Longtin voluntarily went to the police for questioning on Oct. 5 but wasn't charged with her murder until Oct. 7. During that time, he said detectives showed him gruesome pictures of his wife's body and repeatedly told him to confess.

Police also didn't test DNA evidence recovered from the crime scene. The DNA eventually led authorities to Antonio Oesby, who was later convicted of Zinetti's murder and raping of women in Washington and Howard County. He is serving a life term.

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