Archive for the ‘Compensation’ Category


Compensation Awarded to Beatrice Six

Kate Mathis — July 11, 2016 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

Compensation has been awarded to the members of the Nebraskan group of exonerees known as the “Beatrice Six.” James Dean, Kathy Gonzalez, Debra Shelden, Ada JoAnn Taylor, Joseph E. White, and Thomas Winslow were all convicted for the 1985 rape and murder of Helen Wilson. White was convicted of first-degree murder in 1989, while the other five co-defendants pleaded guilty or no contest to lesser charges. In 2008, after White, who later died in a workplace accident in 2011, fought for several years to have DNA evidence from the crime scene tested, results cleared the “Beatrice Six” and implicated another man by the name of Bruce Allen Smith who had died several years earlier.

A federal jury recently awarded the group more than $28 million for their wrongful convictions. Taylor, White, and Winslow received $7.3 million each, while Dean and Gonzalez were awarded $2.19 million each. Shelden received $1.8 million. Collectively, the group spent more than 70 years behind bars, and the differing monetary amounts corresponded with the amount of time each member spent in prison. Although they have not yet been determined, attorney fees will also be included in the payout.

The defendants named in the suit, which claimed the investigation that took place four years after the murder was reckless, were the late Sheriff Jerry DeWitt, who was represented by his estate in the case, Sheriff’s Deputy Burt Searcey, and reserve deputy and psychologist Wayne Price. While DeWitt’s estate was not found liable, Gage County was held responsible for the investigators’ actions along with Searcey and Price, who are still employed by the sheriff’s office.

The “Beatrice Six” claimed that the investigators knowingly coerced three false confessions and ignored forensic evidence that proved they were innocent. Swearing under oath that they were being truthful, the defendants asserted that three suspects voluntarily made the confessions. Jurors were tasked with tasked with determining whether the investigation was reckless and if investigators manufactured false evidence or engaged in a conspiracy. They did not find that investigators engaged in a conspiracy, but ruled in favor of the exoneree group on some of the reckless investigation and false evidence claims, finding that the defendants did not just make mistakes, but acted intentionally.

The federal lawsuit came after a previous civil rights trial ended with a hung jury in 2014. According to the chairman of the Gage County Board of Supervisors, Gage County does not have the type of liability insurance needed to cover the compensation. He went on to say that some time this week, he and the other supervisors would meet to discuss whether they would appeal the verdict.

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California Exoneree Receives Compensation for his Wrongful Conviction

Kate Mathis — July 08, 2016 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

Luther Jones has lived a hard life. He was wrongfully convicted in 1998 after a 10-year-old girl accused him of molesting her. He served 18 years of a 27-year sentence, including two years in jail while awaiting trial, before he was finally released from prison. The woman who accused him later recanted her story, claiming that her mother, who was in a custody battle with Jones at the time over her half-sister, told her to lie about him. Jones was exonerated in February after she recanted, but his release from prison was less than joyful, as he was suffering from kidney and liver failure, diabetes, and hepatitis C. Since his release, Jones has been hospitalized multiple times, including last week. Things are hopefully about to get better for him, however, because the California legislature recently approved a payment that will compensate Jones for his wrongful conviction.

The governor of California signed the payment on Friday, July 1, which will grant Jones $936,880 from the state. Knowing how long it takes for compensation requests to be granted and therefore concerned that he may die before receiving the payment, the Northern California Innocence Project and a Lake County attorney requested that Jones receive a speedy compensation.

His son, Ko’Fawn Jones, called the compensation a blessing, but said he would not get excited until his father has the check in his hand, which he expected to arrive this week. Since Jones’ release from prison, his son has been his primary caretaker and said as soon as his father is well enough and receives his compensation, he plans to move both of them out of Lake County so Jones can be closer to quality medical care. He stated that when there is an emergency, it can take up to nine hours before his father can be hooked up to a dialysis machine from where they currently live. Ko’Fawn went on to say that they have already found a home in another county and that he plans to hire a live-in nurse for his father.

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Colorado Exoneree Seeks $30 Million for Wrongful Conviction

Kate Mathis — June 22, 2016 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

Lorenzo Montoya, who recently celebrated his exoneration anniversary on June 16, is now suing those responsible for his wrongful conviction. Montoya was convicted in 2000 of the murder of Emily Johnson in January that year when he was just 14 years old. After more than 13 years behind bars, his conviction was overturned in 2014 when DNA evidence proved he was not responsible for the crime.

When police brought Montoya in for questioning, he told them 65 times during the interrogation that he was not present during the crime and that he did not do anything. Ultimately, he accepted a deal and pled guilty to a lesser charge of accessory after the fact—a felony that is still on his record.

Montoya recently filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Denver and the Denver Police Department, seeking $30 million for his wrongful conviction. According to his attorney, David Fisher, part of the reason Montoya filed the lawsuit is because he wants to initiate change. Fisher went on to say that while his client is trying to let go of and move on from his wrongful conviction, he does not want what happened to him to happen to other kids.

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Michigan Senate Unanimously Passes Wrongful Conviction Compensation Bill

Kate Mathis — June 20, 2016 @ 3:00 PM — Comments (1)

The number of states that do not have legislation regarding compensation for wrongfully convicted individuals is dwindling, which is good news for the innocence movement and those fighting to right the wrongs carried out by our criminal justice system. Recently, Michigan lawmakers unanimously passed Senate Bill 291, also called the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act, which will allow exonerees to receive $50,000 for every year they spent behind bars.

There are some limits to the bill, however, which would be deemed inapplicable if a sentence is upheld for a separate crime that was related to the wrongful conviction. In addition, exonerees seeking compensation for any injuries they suffered while incarcerated must file a separate claim.

Without legislation, many exonerees have had to engage in expensive legal battles in order to seek compensation for the time they spent wrongfully incarcerated. The bill, which will now go to Michigan’s House of Representatives, aims to avoid that difficult process. It also includes aftercare services for exonerees.

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Canadian Exoneree Receives Compensation for His Wrongful Conviction

Kate Mathis — June 15, 2016 @ 4:00 PM — Comments (0)

Ivan Henry, who was exonerated in 2010, was awarded the equivalent of $6.3 million USD on Wednesday, June 8 for his wrongful conviction. The $8 million in Canadian Dollars compensated him for the 27 years he spent behind bars for the ten 1981 through 1982 sexual assaults of eight women that he did not commit.

Henry’s conviction was overturned due to the prosecution’s failure to disclose evidence to the defense, including witness statements, along with fingerprints and tool marks that were found at the crime scenes. In addition, the prosecution also neglected to inform Henry that in at least one of the sexual assaults for which he was convicted, police believed someone else was responsible for the crime. The judge who overturned his conviction stated that had prosecutors disclosed that information, Henry most likely would have been acquitted at his trial in 1983. The judge added that weak eyewitness identification was the main reason Henry, who represented himself at his trial, was convicted.

The state was permitted to incarcerate Henry for the rest of his life because the nature of the sexual assaults labeled him as a dangerous defender.

Another man, who confessed to three of the crimes decades later, was sent to prison for them and died shortly thereafter.

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Floyd Bledsoe Files Federal Lawsuit Over His Wrongful Conviction

Kate Mathis — June 10, 2016 @ 4:00 PM — Comments (0)

Floyd Bledsoe, a well-known Kansas exoneree who recently won his freedom, filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday, May 10. He was exonerated in December after spending 15 years in prison for a 1999 rape and murder that he did not commit. Despite his repeated denials of committing the crime and several pieces of evidence implicating his brother as the perpetrator, Bledsoe was sentenced to life in prison.

Tom, Bledsoe’s brother, confessed to the crime several times to multiple people. According to the lawsuit, he drove to the Jefferson County Law Enforcement Center two days after Arfmann’s disappearance and made two calls to his Sunday school teacher and one to his parents confessing to the killing from the center’s parking lot. That night, Tom met with his lawyer and sheriff’s deputies and confessed to the crime, telling them that he knew where the victim’s body was buried. Investigators were then led to his parents’ property, where her body was found. Tom later turned over a handgun that he had recently purchased and used to kill Arfmann.

Bledsoe was finally exonerated after DNA evidence was tested, revealing that his brother was involved in the crime. Following the release of those results, Tom killed himself and left several suicide notes confessing to the crimes against Arfmann. In one, he wrote that no one would listen when he tried telling the truth, and that he was told to keep his mouth shut, which tore him up. According to Bledsoe’s attorney, Russell Ainsworth, Tom’s lawyer helped him form the story implicating his brother that he later told to investigators.

The federal lawsuit alleges that investigators, prosecutors, and Tom’s attorney framed Bledsoe, and that prosecutors pursued the case despite his brother’s numerous confessions. According to Ainsworth, none of those confessions or an explanation for why Tom was released from custody and why Bledsoe was instead arrested for the crime was included in the 37-page case report. There are more than a dozen defendants in the lawsuit, including the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the prosecutor that pursued the case.

According to Ainsworth, the lawsuit also aims to determine why investigators wanted to pin the crime on the 23-year-old father of two young sons and to hold them accountable. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as Kansas currently has no law regarding financial compensation for the wrongfully convicted.

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Alfred Dewayne Brown Determined Ineligible for Wrongful Conviction Compensation by Texas Comptroller

Kate Mathis — June 09, 2016 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

In April, the state of Texas announced that Alfred Dewayne Brown, who requested nearly $2 million in compensation for his wrongful conviction, does not qualify as an exoneree who is eligible to receive money. State Comptroller Glenn Hegar explained that Brown was never formally determined to be “actually innocent” of the crime for which he was convicted and therefore, under Texas law, he does not meet the mandatory requirements for compensation. The law currently states that exonerees are eligible for compensation if they are granted a full pardon based on innocence, if they are ruled “actually innocent” by a court, or if their case is dismissed and are certified as “actually innocent” by a prosecutor.

Brown was convicted of capital murder for the fatal shooting of Houston Police Officer Charles Clark in 2003, who, along with store clerk Alfredia Jones, was killed during a check-cashing store robbery. Brown has maintained his innocence, however. His conviction was overturned on this day last year because the defense did not receive, as required by the rules of evidence, phone records that could have supported his alibi. The case was sent back to a lower court for a new trial, but the Harris County District Attorney’s Office determined that there was not enough credible evidence to retry Brown, and dismissed the charges.

Houston Police Officers’ Union officials remain confident that Brown is the prime suspect, but stated that too much time has passed and too many witnesses have recanted to proceed with a new trial. Ray Hunt, the union’s president, claimed that the compensation law was not written for instances in which witnesses are scared to or will not testify, but is rather intended for situations where the wrongfully convicted were cleared because of DNA or other such evidence. He went on to say that union lawyers determined Brown is not eligible for compensation after reviewing the law. The entire situation has stressed the union, which, hoping to gather information that could secure a conviction for Clark’s death, put up another billboard offering $100,000.

Brown’s attorneys intend to fight for compensation for the more than 12 years Brown spent on death row, and the case will probably end up back in court in order to determine the legal definition of “actual innocence.” Brown submitted a request in February for state money that exonerees usually receive to the Comptroller of Public Accounts, who serves as the chief accountant and treasurer for the state and is responsible under law for determining eligibility in cases like these. Attorney Neal Manne, upon receiving written notice of the rejection, was surprised by the comptroller’s decision to ignore the Texas Supreme Court. He claimed that the letter ignores both current state law and the right to compensation as clearly stated by the Texas Supreme Court.

Using a similar case in which another former inmate received state money, Brown’s attorneys plan to appeal to the state office and even file a lawsuit, if need be, to force them to compensate Brown. They are relying on Billy Frederick Allen’s case, in which he spent nearly 26 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. An appeals court ruled that the requirement for determining “actual innocence” was satisfied because of how strong the newly discovered evidence was in Allen’s case.

The controversy over the compensation law is not new, as state lawmakers have already changed it to allow other high-profile exonerees to receive compensation. The law was changed to make Anthony Graves, perhaps Houston’s most popular exoneree, eligible for compensation by allowing prosecutors to certify that he was “actually innocent.” Graves was convicted of capital murder in 1992 for killing six people and spent 20 years wrongfully incarcerated, 12 of which were on death row.

Brown’s attorneys think he is eligible for two types of compensation, one of which includes a lump sum of $973,589 based on a rate of $80,000 a year for his time spent in prison. The other involves the distribution of monthly payments in the same amount total for the remainder of Brown’s life. Brown could receive a total of $1.9 million for the 12 years he spent behind bars.

Brown received the support of Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis, who stood beside him when he announced in February that he would be seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction. Ellis stated that Texas owes Brown the money, and that if the state is willing to spend millions of dollars on a wrongful conviction and keep him on death row, then the least it can do following his release is make an effort to try and help him put his life back together.

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Exoneree to Receive Additional Compensation

Kate Mathis — June 08, 2016 @ 4:00 PM — Comments (0)

Ricky Jackson, who received $1 million from the state of Ohio last year for his wrongful conviction, is set to receive an additional compensation to the tune of $2.65 million. A judge recently approved the settlement, which resolves Jackson’s case against the state.

Jackson, along with two other brothers, was convicted in 1975 for the murder of Harold Franks outside an East Side convenience store. He, Wiley Bridgeman, and Kwame Ajamu were also convicted of the attempted murder of Anna Robinson, the store’s owner. The men received death sentences, which were later commuted to life in prison.

A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge cleared the trio of the charges decades later when a witness who was 12 years old at the time of the crime recanted his testimony. Ajamu was paroled in 2003, and Bridgeman and Jackson were released in November 2014. Jackson spent 39 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, setting the country’s record for the longest time anyone has ever spent wrongfully incarcerated.

The men, who were exonerated with the help of the Ohio Innocence Project, have been active in the wrongful conviction community since their release, giving talks and interviews about their case and time spent wrongfully incarcerated. In addition, they have all filed federal lawsuits against the city of Cleveland and the detectives who helped convict them, and the state has also already awarded Ajamu and Bridgeman almost $6 million in compensation.

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Chinese Man Sues for Wrongful Conviction Compensation

Kate Mathis — April 08, 2016 @ 4:00 PM — Comments (0)

A Chinese man who spent 23 years in prison for a murder he did not commit is now seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction. Chen Man was arrested on December 25, 1992 following the discovery of his landlord who was found dead two days prior in a burned down house. Determined to be an apparent homicide, Man, who was working as a painter and decorator at the time in Haikou on the southern island of Hainan, was given the death sentence. That sentence was suspended in 1994 by a Haikou court for two years, which usually translates to life in prison.

Man and his family have always maintained his innocence. In February of last year, his lawyer raised concerns during a hearing about the credibility of Man’s confession, claiming that he was tortured into making one. In addition to the questionability about the fairness of his trial, his lawyer cited 18 contradictions in his testimony, which he said were due to Man being strangled and beaten with sticks and steel rods.

Following the hearing, the Supreme People’s Court, China’s highest court, ordered Man’s case to be reopened and a retrial took place. During the retrial, both prosecutors and the defense requested for Man to be released. Upon the announcement of his release, Fu Qin, Hainan’s top judge, apologetically bowed to Man on behalf of the court that issued the death sentence.

Man is now suing the Chinese government and seeking compensation from the Hainan Higher People’s Court in the form of 9,660,000 Yuan, which in the United States translates to $1,491,987.

Man’s case is the most recent among a series of overturned wrongful convictions in China, following the government’s emphasis on its commitment to the law and preventing wrongful convictions. In the case of Huugjilt, another high-profile wrongful conviction case, 26 police officer, judges, and prosecutors were given demerits over the teenager who was executed in 1996 for the rape and murder of a Hohhot woman. Huugjilt’s conviction was overturned after the real perpetrator was caught nine years later and confessed to the crime. The government’s focus on its commitment and the recent overturned wrongful convictions may relate to the practices of the justice system in China—a country where more than 99% of criminal defendants are found guilty.

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Statutes and Compensation for Wrongful Convictions

Kate Mathis — January 27, 2016 @ 4:00 PM — Comments (1)

Sandy D’Alembertehttp://www.innocenceproject.orghttp://www.innocenceproject.orghttp://www.law.fsu.edu/our-faculty/profiles/dalemberteThose who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit experience several injustices. One would think that once these people are finally released from prison, they can easily return to normal lives. However, this is usually not the case; many exonerees experience several issues ranging from trouble finding a job to familial and financial problems. One major issue that has recently come to light in regards to exoneration is compensation for people’s wrongful convictions. While 30 states and the federal government do have compensation statutes in place, many people feel that they are a measly excuse for an apology when it comes to putting a price on the decades some have spent wrongfully incarcerated. In fact, 20 states do not even have compensation statutes, meaning that exonerees are entitled to no money at all for the miscarriage of justice they endured.

According to federal law, those exonerated for federal crimes may receive up to $50,000 for each year they were wrongfully incarcerated. Exonerees may also receive an additional $50,000 for every year spent on death row.

Florida’s wrongful conviction compensation statute, which was most recently amended in 2014, states that exonerees with no prior felony convictions are entitled to $50,000 a year, with a maximum of $2 million. In addition, he/she may be reimbursed for fines or costs imposed during the time of his/her sentence, along with 120 hours of tuition at a career center, community college, or state university. Florida did not have a wrongful conviction compensation statute until 2008. Wilton Dedge, who was exonerated on August 11, 2004 with help from the Innocence Project, spent 22 years in prison for rape and burglary. After being released from prison for the crimes he did not commit, Dedge received no compensation from Florida for his wrongful conviction. After filing a lawsuit against the state that was dismissed by the trial court, he sought a private compensation bill from the Florida legislature. Although the bill originally did not pass, the legislature finally passed the private bill, which led to the creation of a Florida statute for wrongful conviction compensation in 2008. IPF founding board chair, Sandy D’Alemberte was principally responsible for helping Dedge get compensated. Florida’s statute, unfortunately excludes many exonerees who have felony convictions from prior to their wrongful conviction and incarceration.

Like Dedge, many exonerees feel cheated due to these statutes—or lack thereof—because they feel that most monetary maximums defined in them are not enough compensation for the time they wrongfully spent in prison. Because of this, many choose to file civil suits against the city, state, or the authorities that contributed to their wrongful convictions them in order to receive the recompense that they feel they deserve. Often times, these exonerees ask for millions of dollars, which cities and states are often not exactly willing to pay. This is another important issue in terms of wrongful conviction compensation that has gained increasing popularity. All over the United States, exonerees—especially those who have not received a penny for their time spent wrongfully imprisoned—are fighting back in the hopes of getting what they deserve. Alan Newton and David Ayers are just two examples of these exonerees who are still fighting municipalities decades later just to get what they deserve.

Alan Newton was convicted in 1985 for the rape, robbery, and assault of a New York City woman. After spending 21 years in prison for crimes he did not commit, he was finally exonerated on July 6, 2006 with help from the Innocence Project. New York’s statute for wrongful conviction compensation, which was amended in 2007, states that exonerees have two years from the time of their pardon to file a claim and receive compensation in a sum that the state deems fair and reasonable.

In 2010, a jury awarded Newton the $18 million he sought in a lawsuit against New York City. The following year, Manhattan Federal Court Judge Shira Scheindlin set aside that verdict because she felt that the city was not responsible for Newton’s wrongful conviction, and therefore he was not entitled to the money. On February 26, 2015, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Scheindlin’s judgment, subsequently rejecting New York City’s request to rehear the appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court also declined to hear the case after the city Law Department attempted to fight the case in that court.

Despite these rulings, New York City still will not pay Newton, citing that the decision of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals focused on whether the city was responsible for Newton’s wrongful incarceration rather than the appropriateness or the excessiveness of the $18 million. The city Law Department will once again turn to Judge Scheindlin in the hopes that he will reduce the amount of the compensation, arguing that they have no issue with the verdict, just the amount of damages sought by Newton based on similar cases. Despite these court losses, the City just doesn’t want to pay.

Another man in Cleveland faces the same problem as Newton. David Ayers was convicted in 2000 for aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, and aggravated robbery. He was exonerated on September 12, 2011 with help from the Ohio Innocence Project after spending almost 12 years in prison for crimes that he did not commit. Ohio statute for wrongful conviction compensation states that as long as an exoneree did not plead guilty, he/she has two years to file a claim in which he/she is eligible to receive $40,330 a year along with lost wages, costs, and attorney’s fees. The state amended this statute in 2010 to allow eligible claimants to receive 50 percent of the $40,330 within sixty days of being determined to have been wrongfully imprisoned.

Ayers rejected two plea deals offered to him by prosecutors and plead not guilty, making him eligible to sue for compensation under Ohio’s statute. In 2013, a federal court jury awarded Ayers the $13.2 million he sought in damages. The appeals court then upheld this verdict. However, just like New York City with Newton, Cleveland still will not pay Ayers. Cleveland officials argue that the two detectives who helped convict Ayers are responsible, not the city, and that the judgment of both courts was removed when one of those detectives filed for bankruptcy.

Thanks to cases such as those of Newton and Ayers, many states have recognized the need for reform in regards to wrongful conviction compensation statutes. Kansas, which is among the 20 states that still do not have these statutes, had a bill introduced to the legislature almost two weeks ago that would compensate exonerees for their time spent in prison. The bill was inspired by Floyd Bledsoe, who was exonerated in Kansas last month on December 8 with help from the Midwest Innocence Project after spending 16 years in prison for murder, child sex abuse, and kidnapping that he did not commit. Although the bill does not yet have a number or hearing scheduled, it is a step in the right direction towards the necessary reforms our justice system needs when it comes to compensating the innocent people who spent years behind bars.

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