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 ...
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
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
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 ...
Seventh Circuit Upholds False Imprisonment and Deliberate Indifference Dismissal
On September 4, 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of an Illinois prisoner’s false imprisonment suit, because he was not unlawfully detained.
Sex offender David Armato was convicted of two Illinois theft charges and sentenced to ten years imprisonment on May 6, 2006. Illinois law requires a term of “Mandatory Supervised Release” (MSR), but the court did not order an MSR term.
Prison officials calculated Armato’s release date as November 9, 2009. Records Office Supervisor Michele Littlejohn reviewed Armato’s file in anticipation of his release and recalculated his release date as September 6, 2010, due to a lack of information about his jail time served credit. Armato was notified of the change and advised to seek judicial clarification of his release date.
On February 18, 2010, the sentencing court issued two typed judgments and one handwritten agreed-upon order, granting Armato credit for 373 days in jail and expressly holding that Armato was “to be released from the Department of Corrections without a term of Mandatory Supervised Release,” on May 28, 2010.
Littlejohn received the new orders on February 22, 2010 and recalculated Armato’s release date as ...
$200,000 Settlement Recommended for Innocent Arkansas Man who Spent 5 Years Imprisoned
The Arkansas Claims Commission recommended Rodney Bragg receive $200,000 for the five years he was falsely imprisoned. Bragg was convicted on January 19, 1996 for delivery of a controlled substance.
A federal magistrate ordered his release ...
$25 Million Awarded to Innocent Illinois Prisoner Incarcerated for 16 Years
In January 2012, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois awarded plaintiff Thaddeus Jimenez $25,000,000 after prevailing in his civil rights. Jimenez alleged conspiracy on the part of the Chicago ...
Federal Ruling Allows Wrongly Convicted Man to Sue the Los Angeles Police Department
Harold C. Hall, wrongfully convicted in 1985 for double-murder, spent 19 years in prison. He was arrested for committing a robbery, unrelated to the murders, and after his guilty plea was celled near an informant. The informant told the Los Angeles Police Department that Hall confessed to the murders. The detectives then interrogated Hall for several hours, while he was handcuffed, never advising him of his rights and denying him food. After they finally coerced a confession, the prosecutor sought the death penalty. The jury recommended life without the possibility of parole.
Hall was released in 2004 when the Ninth Circuit overturned the conviction. Prosecutors decided not to retry him. Hall eventually sued the city but failed to allege that his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination was violated. A district judge dismissed the case and ruled that Hall could not amend his suit to include the Fifth Amendment claim.
Hall appealed. The Ninth Circuit panel ruled that Hall can amend his suit against the city because the officer coerced a confession as a result of "desperation, fear, and fatigue,” and to not allow his case to ...
New York: Class Action Filed against Prison Officials for Applying Illegal Sentences
Two men have filed a class action complaint in federal court against current and former New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) employees for administratively imposing post-release supervision (PRS) in violation of federal law.
Wesley Gabriel and Shawn Smith filed their complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on March 11, 2008. The complaint – representing Gabriel, Smith and all others that have been or will be affected by PRS – alleged that DOCS Commissioner Brian Fischer, former DOCS Commissioner Glenn Goord, and other present and post officials had knowingly imposed and enforced its PRS policy in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment. Injunctive relief and damages were sought.
Gabriel and Smith, in separate unrelated cases, were sentenced to at least one determinate sentence of seven years each. After serving approximately 85 percent of their sentences, the DOCS imposed a 5 year term of PRS each of the men, Gabriel on November 24, 2006 and Smith on October 26, 2005. Gabriel was violated under the terms of his PRS and re-imprisoned on November 28, 2007 ...
New York Court Orders the Release of a Man Illegally Imprisoned
A New York court has mandated the release of a man who was imprisoned for violating release conditions that were illegally imposed on him by the New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS).
Joaquin Brunson, while imprisoned at New York’s Five Points Correctional Facility, filed a petition in the Seneca County Supreme Court to vacate the five years of post-release supervision (PRS) illegally imposed on him by the DOCS. The court granted his petition on May 13, 2008, ordering the DOCS to release him immediately.
Pleading guilty to three counts of robbery, Brunson had been sentenced to three concurrent terms of five years each on October 5, 2000. The DOCS administratively imposed the PRS before Brunson was released from prison on August 9, 2004. On April 9, 2007, he was returned to prison for violating the terms of his PRS.
The supreme court, in granting the petition, held that PRS is statutory, and “... is a judicial function that can only be [imposed] by the sentencing judge.” The respondent argued that since PRS is statutorily mandated in Brunson’s case, the case must be remanded back to the ...