Statutes and Compensation for Wrongful Convictions

Alejandra de la Fuente — January 27, 2016 @ 4:00 PM — Comments (6)

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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Comments and Pings on “Statutes and Compensation for Wrongful Convictions”

  1. My nephew was incarcerated for five years, he was sentenced for fifteen years for protecting his own self in his home, after serving five years in prison in New York State they finally release him, since then he haven’t been able to get a good job and is living home with his mother

  2. The government officials are required to do right to be right. When it comes to blacks, they be right to do right. As a result, a guilty plea was forced on me for a crime staged by JPMorgan Chase Bank, during my national origin discrimination lawsuit against Chase.
    Public Defender Abigail Baker told me, “Assistant D. A. Mac Anton told me, ‘This guy was just used.” She still insisted that I plead guilty. I replaced her because of that. The new Court-Appointed Attorney convinced or made me plea guilty on Friday, on Monday I said I was coerced. A new judge denied my motion to withdraw the plea. This is a procedural error. The rule is, defendant seeks to reverse guilty plea must show reasonable probability that had it not been for the error, he wouldn’t have entered the plea. Innocent people plea guilty all the time. See the mass shooting of the 9 Buddhist Monks, in Phoenix, AZ, in August 1991. 3 innocent guys pleaded guilty for the crime. The real perpetrators were later apprehended. My reasonable probability was clear and concise. I didn’t replace Ms. Baker for gender issue.
    The case was largely circumstantial.
    The Appellate Court rejected all the alleged fraudulent accounts for misconduct of Chase. I had no prior! The accounts are the cause of the investigation that led to my arrest to my incarceration. If the accounts has been proven by the law to be the result of misconduct of the allege victim, I wouldn’t be here without the misconduct of Chase.
    The only two reasons that I’m in prison are, misconduct of Chase, and procedural error of the Court, which comes down to one, and only reason, I dare to sue Chase Bank in a law abiding County.
    If justice servers to everyone in here, I am famished for justice. I am financially challenged to hire an attorney. To avoid the embarrassment of wrongfully incarcerating an innocent man, and possible consequence of that, the District Court denies every self-prepared motions I filed for trial. I’m at the halfway House finishing a 47 months sentence, on March 2018 to start a 5yr probation to a lifetime restriction just for having sued Chase Bank.
    I’m screaming the top of my Lungs for help, in a country full of people, no one hears me. I wrote to the Inspector General, the Ethics Committee, Governor Rick Scott, and the mainstream media, I’ve gotten no help. I hope my crying can be heard by you. We’re humans too! I am respectfully requesting for assistance for my immediate release, and compensatory compensation to restore what’s left of my life. I want to sue Chase, and Possibly a case action lawsuit against the public defender’s office for every innocent life they have destroyed.
    Background
    The EEOC issued my right to sue Chase, on January 2012. Chase orchestrated, and staged some fraudulent accounts to framed me as their process to getaway.
    In conjunction with the government, Chase wiretapped to induce me to the bank to be arrested for the staged crime, on December 2012, by telling me, “i want to open as many accounts as possible before the tax season begins.” I considered the offer. My judgement got the best of me. I recanted from the conspiracy. I told Chase, this is wrong! I don’t want any of it! The recording evidence produced no crime involved me. Chase voluntarily paid checks out of those known fraudulent accounts on January2013, to build damage of the crime. I was wrongfully arrested! A crime is the intent. Chase was the one with the intent. I was simply invited. Because Chase gave me a date to get involved “before the tax season begins!” I was wrongfully arrested at mt house on October2013 for conspiracy to commit a crime that couldn’t be committed even if I wanted to. Tax season finished on April 2013. My case against Chase closed on July2013.
    See pacer for details 0:13-cr-602467-BB, Willy Toussaint. You’ll also see my motion for immediate release on the ground of wrongful incarceration 17-cv-24296 Had I reported an illegal gang to the law, I’d be protected by the law. I reported Chase to the law, the law is working in conjunction with Chase to destroy. By whom may I be protected? I hope it’s by you. I can be reached at 754-367-5907 visiblyhidden01@gmail.com

  3. my brother is in prison at limestone correctional facility in Alabama for a sexual assault he did not commit.since the trial,the girl has told several people he did not do it and she named another person.can you help right this wrong?

     edna anderson — May 3, 2018 @ 8:21 pm
  4. We can only provide help in cases that take place in Florida.

     Sarah Burgess — July 9, 2018 @ 2:04 pm
  5. If you are looking to receive legal aid from the Innocence Project of Florida, the client must write us a letter with their charges, DC number and names of those who may call to ask for status updates. Then we will send that client a questionnaire. After we receive and process said questionnaire, we will determine if we are able to take the case. If you wish to start on this process, please have the client write to us. Our address is: 1100 E Park Ave Tallahassee, FL 32301

     Sarah Burgess — July 9, 2018 @ 2:20 pm
  6. 754-367-5907
    JPMorgan Chase Bank orchestrated and staged a crime during my lawsuit against Chase. Public Defender Abigail Baker insisted that I pleaded guilty for the crime. I replaced Attorney Abigail Baker for the sole intent of not pleading guilty. The new attorney convinced me to plead guilty, I recanted the next day. A third attorney was appointed to file a motion to withdraw the plea. The motion was denied, I was incarcerated. After serving four years of incarceration, I was released on supervised release. I violated the probation by refusing to pay the restitution because I know I was wrongfully convicted. I offered my own advocacy in the hearing to restore the probation, I got time served. I asked to be exonerated, the judge told me, “There is other avenue for that, but this is not the time.” Time served was enforced. I need an attorney to use whatever avenue it is so I can be exonerated, so I can receive my compensatory compensation for wrongful conviction. I also want to sue JPMorgan Chase Bank. I need an attorney who can arrange for a press conference for me. The transcript of the hearing where time served was granted to me has details. This is very lucrative. I’d like to setup a meeting for a free consultation.

     Willy Toussaint — August 18, 2018 @ 7:36 pm

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