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Articles about Wrongful Convictions

Texas Couple Wrongly Convicted in “Satanic Panic” Receive $3.4 Million

by Matt Clarke

An Austin, Texas couple wrongly convicted of sexually abusing a child at the day-care center they ran in the 1990s has been declared innocent and received over $3.4 million in compensation from the state.

Starting in the 1980s, the United States experienced an episode of mass hysteria now known as “Satanic Panic,” during which it was widely believed that Satanists had infiltrated the child-care industry and were sexually abusing children, brainwashing them and using them in satanic rituals. The first large-scale prosecution of alleged day care Satanists was the McMartin Preschool case in California. One of the last was that of Austin, Texas couple Dan and Frances “Fran” Keller, who both spent 21 years in prison.

The Kellers were convicted of sexually assaulting a three-year-old girl in 1992 and sentenced to 48 years. In 2015, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned their convictions because the physician who gave the only scientific evidence against them at trial realized he was mistaken.

During a 2013 hearing, emergency room doctor Michael Mouw testified he was wrong when he testified at the Kellers’ trial that tears he found in the girl’s hymen indicated sexual abuse. Years later, he ...

Wrongfully Convicted North Carolina Man Receives $4 Million

A North Carolina man who served 37 years for a double homicide he did not commit has received a $4 million settlement from the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) in a federal lawsuit.

Joseph Sledge, Jr. became a suspect in the September 5, 1976 murder of Josephine Davis, 74, and ...

$9 Million Settlement for Illinois Man Wrongly Imprisoned for Murder

by Matt Clarke

In October 2017, a $9 million settlement was reached in a lawsuit brought by an Illinois man who spent 15 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. The suit alleged law enforcement officials fabricated a false murder scenario, coerced false confessions and witness statements, and ...

Exonerated Prisoner Awarded $15 Million for Misconduct by Baltimore Police

by Derek Gilna

On October 5, 1994, Sabein Burgess’ life changed forever when his girlfriend, Michelle Dyson, was brutally murdered at her home in Baltimore, Maryland. Burgess discovered his girlfriend’s body, called for help and then returned to cradle Dyson’s head in his hands until police officers arrived. As horrible ...

Second Circuit Reverses Judgment in Favor of U.S. Citizen Held 3½ Years in Immigration Detention

by Matt Clarke

On July 31, 2017, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a judgment for a U.S. citizen who was improperly held in an immigration detention facility for 1,273 days.

Davino Watson was born in Jamaica. When he was 13, he entered the U.S as a lawful permanent resident to live with his father, a Jamaican citizen who was a lawful permanent resident. His father became a naturalized U.S. citizen four years later. Under the law in effect at that time, this automatically made Watson a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Five years later, Watson pleaded guilty in New York state court to selling cocaine, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents investigated his citizenship status. He claimed to be a U.S. citizen and provided the names, addresses and phone numbers for his father, Hopeton Ulando Watson, and step-mother, Clare Watson. ICE officials made no attempt to verify this information. Instead, they looked for those names in the ICE database and found files for Hopeton Livingston Watson and Calrie Watson, both of whom were Jamaican citizens. Although a cursory reading of the files would have shown they were not Watson’s parents, an ICE agent ...

Woman Forced to Give On-Duty Florida Officer Oral Sex Awarded $20,000

by Christopher Zoukis

   A Florida woman who claimed that an on-duty police officer forced her to give him oral sex was awarded $20,000 after suing him in Broward County Circuit Court.

     On September 3, 2007, the 32-year-old woman had been arguing with her boyfriend near a gas ...

Georgia Man Settles for $20,000 Against Atlanta Police Officer

by Christopher Zoukis

After the U.S. District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Atlanta Police officer M.H. Payne, claims of excessive force, false arrest, and malicious prosecution against the officer were settled for $20,000.

     On June 18, 2005, Lamont Johnson, 40, was leaning on a ...

EXCLUSIVE: 'Survivors Guide to Prison': An Interview with the Film Producer

by Steve Horn

 A new film, “Survivors Guide to Prison,” has hit the small screens on-demand on Amazon, iTunes, Fandango, Hulu and other online streaming venues. It provides not only a step-by-step guide to how to survive if you’re walled up in a U.S. jail or prison system, but also walks viewers through the brutal and seldom-told realities of life inside these penal institutions. It does so by presenting the audience with startling statistics and jaw-dropping horror stories of people serving time in the “big house,” making a de facto case that the title of the film could just as easily have been “How Hard it is to Survive in Prison.”

The movie hits hard and fast, and at times can be difficult to watch.

But the story also is told through the lens of survivors and offers a ray of hope for those locked away in prisons, jails and other detention facilities, whose voices often are not heard. Prison Legal News conducted a phone interview with the film’s lead producer, Steve DeVore, to talk about the issues covered in the movie, the art of making a film on this topic and the production team’s plan ...

Ohio: Almost $3 Million Settlement in Suit Brought by Two Wrongfully Convicted Men

Ohio: Almost $3 Million Settlement in Suit Brought by Two Wrongfully Convicted Men

by Matt Clarke

In March 2017, a state court judge approved a $2.9 million settlement between Ohio and two men who each spent almost 17 years in prison after having been wrongfully convicted of rape and ...

The Criminalization of the Mentally Ill in Maine

by Lance TapleyPine Tree Watch

In April, 2017, while incarcerated at the Maine State Prison’s Intensive Mental Health Unit in Warren, James Staples removed his own eyeball.

The 66-year-old prisoner, who has a lengthy history of both mental illness and assault and had previously been incarcerated at several of the state’s mental health institutions, tried unsuccessfully to remove his other eye with his fingernails. Nonetheless, he managed to render himself blind.

For Maine’s mentally ill, things were not supposed to be like this.

In 1989, after ten patients died from deficiencies in the care provided to them at the Augusta Mental Health Institute (AMHI), patient advocates sued the state and the following year achieved a sweeping legal settlement known as the “consent decree.” This 99-page document ordered what is now named the Department of Health and Human Services to create a decent, robust system to care for Maine’s seriously mentally ill citizens — and to do it within five years. The Department agreed.

But decades later, law enforcement officials, mental health experts and patient advocates agree that the state is still far from meeting the consent decree’s mandates. Despite the decree’s strict requirements, the shortcomings of the state’s ...