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Articles about Wrongful Convictions

D.C. Appellate Court Reverses $2.3 Million Wrongful Imprisonment Award

The District of Columbia’s Court of Appeals has reversed a judgment against the D.C. government based upon the municipal liability standard set forth in Monell v. Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). According to the appellate court, the plaintiff, who had been wrongfully jailed following a parole revocation, failed to show that the violation of his rights resulted from a municipal policy or custom, shielding the District from liability for the improper acts of its employees.

The Court of Appeals wrote that “[t]he District of Columbia Board of Parole revoked plaintiff Charles Singletary’s parole based primarily on unreliable multiple-hearsay testimony. This court later determined that the evidentiary basis for his parole revocation failed to satisfy the requirements of the Due Process Clause.”

Singletary filed suit against the D.C. government under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, arguing “that the District bore responsibility for the Board’s unconstitutional revocation decision. The district court found the District liable, and a jury awarded $2.3 million in damages for the period of Singletary’s confinement following the revocation of his parole.” [See: PLN, Sept. 2012, p.30].

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Monell is the controlling case for determining municipal liability. To prevail, a ...

U.S. Court of Claims Awards Federal Prisoner $172,465.75 for Wrongful Conviction

Michael Alan Crooker, wrongfully convicted in Massachusetts on a federal charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, had his conviction reversed on appeal by the First Circuit in 2010, setting the stage for a certificate of innocence and a claim for financial damages from the federal government ...

Illinois: Exonerated Sex Offender Sues for Wrongful Conviction

An Illinois man who was wrongfully convicted of a sex offense, and released from prison after his supposed victim was discredited, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Chicago, the Chicago police department and other defendants as a result of his 2002 conviction for a rape he did not commit. In the meantime, Carl Chatman, 59, has had to defend himself against the faulty bookkeeping of Illinois’ sex offender registry.

Chatman was released from prison in 2013 thanks to the efforts of the Northwestern Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions. The prosecution did not oppose his certificate of innocence; in fact, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office provided hard copies of Chatman’s release documents to the Illinois Department of Corrections, and prison officials claimed they entered a “Court Ordered Discharge” into the state’s criminal database – though they failed to indicate the reason for the discharge. As a result, Chatman’s name continued to appear on the sex offender registry and he was later arrested for failure to register.

“The whole thing is kind of a mess, and it really ought to be cleaned up and fixed so this kind of thing doesn’t happen,” said Rob Warden, executive director ...

Former Washington Prisoner Exonerated, Receives Compensation, Arrested Again

A wrongfully convicted former Washington prisoner was awarded $546,383 in compensation under a new state law for spending 10 years in prison on robbery and burglary charges for crimes he did not commit.

Brandon Redtailhawk Olebar was arrested following a February 2003 incident involving at least eight attackers who broke into the home of his sister’s ex-boyfriend. The man was pistol whipped and beaten unconscious during the 10-minute assault.

The victim told police officers his attackers had “feather” facial tattoos and he recognized Olebar’s sister as one of the assailants. Olebar, then 19 years old, was picked out of a photo lineup by the victim two days after the incident. Despite not having facial tattoos and presenting an alibi defense, Olebar was convicted by a jury and sentenced to 16.5 years in prison. His sister pleaded guilty to robbery charges and received 20 years.

In 2011, two law students, Nikki Carsley and Kathleen Kline, at the Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW), which is based out of a clinical law program at the University of Washington Law School, began investigating the case and developed a body of evidence to prove Olebar was not involved in the crime.

They were able to track ...

Innocence Project Frees Thirty One People in 2013

Thirty one people were exonerated by the Innocence Network in 2013. Three of them were women. All total, these prisoners served 451 years of illegal incarceration.

Bennie Starks spent 20 years behind bars after being wrongfully convicted of raping a 69-year-old woman. Even though Starks had an alibi and did not match the description of the attacker two forensics experts offered false testimony that assisted in getting Starks convicted.

The Innocence Project showed in 2000 that the DNA evidence belonged to another man but the courts refused to give Starks a new trial. In 2004 the Innocence Project found more evidence that excluded Starks and in 2006 the Illinois Appellate Court for the Second District finally overturned Starks conviction. Still, it was not until 2013 that the state finally dismissed all charges against Starks.

Kristine Bunch served 17 years in an Indiana prison for a murder she did not commit. On June 30, 1995 Bunch’s house caught on fire killing her 3-year-old son. An arson investigator testified that he found evidence of an accelerant proving that the fire was deliberately started. A forensic analyst corroborated those findings. Bunch was sentenced to 30 years for arson and 60 years for murder. ...

New Pennsylvania Legislation Sucker Punches Inmate Speech

Law Shreds Rights

by: Linn Washington Jr.

The serious injustice endured by Pennsylvania prison inmate Lorenzo ‘Cat’ Johnson, detailed yesterday in Part I of this series [1], is the subject of a website and numerous other postings on the Internet. Those Internet postings detail gross misconduct by police and prosecutors that have kept Johnson imprisoned for a murder that evidence indicates he neither committed nor had anything to [do] with.

Johnson served 16-years of a life sentence before a federal appeals court ordered his release in October 2011 after ruling insufficient evidence existed to maintain his conviction. Prosecutors never claimed Johnson was the killer only that he was present when the killing occurred.

However, a perverse appeal by Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office prosecutors forced Johnson’s return to prison in June 2012 –- following six-months of freedom.

Those websites supporting Johnson’s release, which contain documents and other evidence detailing Johnson’s wrongful conviction, are in danger of being wiped under terms of legislation recently approved by Pennsylvania’s Republican-dominated House and Senate.

That legislation, fast-tracked through the legislature in an election-timed attempt to boost the hugely unpopular Republican Gov. Corbett's flagging re-election bid, allows victims of crime to go to court for an injunction ...

Appeals Court Reverses $14 Million Award for Wrongfully Convicted Prisoner

Appeals Court Reverses $14 Million Award for Wrongfully Convicted Prisoner

On January 31, 2013, the United States Courts of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed and remanded for retrial a case that concluded with a $14,000,000 damages award for wrongly convicted prisoner Shawn Drumgold – one million dollars for every ...

New York Man Wrongfully Convicted of Murder Permitted to Amend Federal Suit

New York Man Wrongfully Convicted of Murder Permitted to Amend Federal Suit

The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has allowed a man to amend his wrongfully convicted suit to include additional facts on his claims and include a new claim alleging a Brady violation based on recent information.

Israel Vasquez was convicted on February 26, 1996, of the murder of Denise Raymond in the New York Supreme Court, Bronx County. Following an appeal, Vasquez’ conviction was vacated and his indictment dismissed on August 23, 2007. On August 20, 2010, Vasquez filed suit in the district court against the City of New York and police officers Michael Donnelly, Thomas Aiello, and Annabella Nieves, seeking damages for wrongful conviction and malicious prosecution. Vasquez subsequently filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint with additional facts and to include a Brady claim (the unlawful concealing of evidence) based on new information. On August 14, 2012, the district granted the motion, determining that the defendants would not be prejudiced.

Vasquez sought to amend his suit to include a new allegation on recent information that defendant Aiello concealed a videotape during Vasquez’ murder trial. Also, Vasquez desired to ...

Massachusetts Prisoner Denied Credit for Time Completed on Vacated Conviction

Massachusetts Prisoner Denied Credit for Time Completed on Vacated Conviction

The Massachusetts Supreme Court has held that a prisoner serving time on an unrelated sentence was not entitled to credit for the completed prison sentence of a vacated conviction.

Marlon Holmes served approximately two years in prison for a drug offence in 1997. About three years after his release, he was again incarcerated on other charges. Holmes filed in the superior court to withdraw his plea in the 1997 conviction. The court granted the motion, which ultimately led to the vacation of that conviction. Subsequently, Holmes sought credit for the “dead time” to be counted toward his current incarceration. The Superior Court denied the motion and Holmes appealed. The appeals court, however, reversed, crediting him for that time. The issue reached the Massachusetts Supreme Court (Supreme Court) and on September 12, 2014, it held that despite Holmes’ time served on his vacated conviction, the “dead time” could not be credited toward a later, unrelated sentence.

Holmes pled guilty to illegal possession of a controlled substance in 1997. After serving a prison term and being released in 1999, Holmes committed new crimes in 2002, including, among others, two counts of unlawful ...

One Extra Day in Prison Not Cognizable in Suit

One Extra Day in Prison Not Cognizable in Suit

The U.S. District Court for the Eighth Circuit upheld a decision of a Missouri federal district court, affirming summary judgment against a former prisoner who had alleged he was improperly incarcerated in prison one day longer than he was supposed to be. The court also upheld summary judgment on numerous other claims against the arresting officers, a parole officer, and a public defender.

Travis Wayne Gibson had been arrested numerous times for violating an Order of Protection against his former wife. Many times, he would plead guilty, receive probation or a suspended sentence, and then re-violate the protection order.

On April 9, 2008, Gibson was arrested for threatening his ex-wife and violating the protection order. Gibson claimed he was there to pick up his children for visitation. Gibson was given probation and then arrested twice more for violating the protection order. After his final arrest, the court revoked his probation and sentenced him to three years in prison.

While incarcerated, Gibson filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea to the April 9, 2008 arrest that resulted in the probation sentence. After a hearing on December 1, 2009, a Stoddard County ...