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Articles about Wrongful Convictions

Seventh Circuit Upholds False Imprisonment and Deliberate Indifference Dismissal

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 August ...

$200,000 Settlement Recommended for Innocent Arkansas Man who Spent 5 Years Imprisoned

$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 on December ...

$25 Million Awarded to Innocent Illinois Prisoner Incarcerated for 16 Years

$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 Police officers, violation ...

Federal Ruling Allows Wrongly Convicted Man to Sue the Los Angeles Police Department

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 be ...

New York: Class Action Filed against Prison Officials for Applying Illegal Sentences

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, due to ...

New York Court Orders the Release of a Man Illegally Imprisoned

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 sentencing ...

$13,000 Jury Award to Tennessee Prisoner Held on Invalid Escape Warrant

$13,000 Jury Award to Tennessee Prisoner Held on Invalid Escape Warrant

A Tennessee federal jury awarded $13,000 to a former prisoner alleging he was unconstitutionally imprisoned and denied medical treatment while held in Tennessee prisons.

Samuel C. Key was serving a Georgia-imposed sentence in April of 1994 when he was ...

Former New York Prisoner Receives $3,375,000 Settlement for Wrongful Conviction

Former New York Prisoner Receives $3,375,000 Settlement for Wrongful Conviction

by Derek Gilna

A New York man who was the victim of egregious police misconduct obtained a $3.375 million settlement from the State of New York after serving 17 years in prison for two murders he did not commit. Martin ...

Texas Prisoner Held in Prison 35 Years after Conviction Vacated

Texas Prisoner Held in Prison 35 Years after Conviction Vacated

by Matt Clarke

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas denied a bid to halt the retrial of a mentally challenged prisoner whose original conviction was overturned but who remained incarcerated almost 35 years later. In ruling against Jerry Hartfield, the federal court cleared the way for his retrial to proceed in August 2015.

Hartfield, 59, was convicted of the 1976 murder of a 55-year-old ticket agent at a bus station in Bay City, Texas. The body of Eunice J. Lowe was found in the bus station’s storeroom; she had been beaten to death with a pickaxe handle, stabbed with a glass bottle and raped. Her car and several thousand dollars were stolen. Despite proclaiming his innocence, Hartfield, a mentally impaired black man with an IQ below 70, was convicted at trial and sentenced to death on June 30, 1977.

Three years later, in September 1980, the verdict was overturned on the grounds that prosecutors violated the Constitution when striking a juror from hearing the case because the juror expressed reservations about the death penalty. After Hartfield’s attorneys challenged the prosecutors’ actions, the Texas Court of Criminal ...

This Man Sat in Jail for 110 Days—After He Already Did His Time

This Man Sat in Jail for 110 Days—After He Already Did His Time

The case of Eric Wyatt, Georgia's Cordele circuit, and why America's public defense system is disintegrating.

Eric Wyatt was looking forward to his upcoming release from Georgia's Douglas County Jail one day in March last year. With past convictions for thefts, traffic offenses, and a probation violation, he had an insider's knowledge of the criminal-justice system; so when the day came, he was more than a little surprised when the authorities, instead of setting him free, escorted him over to Ben Hill County, where he was served with an old arrest warrant for borrowing a truck and failing to return it on time. Wyatt was very familiar with this theft charge: He had already been arrested, roughly three years earlier, for the crime. In fact, he had already served 179 days in jail in Clayton County as punishment for it. Obviously, somebody had made a mistake.

But no one was treating it like a mistake. When Wyatt appeared before a Ben Hill County magistrate three days later, he was denied bond. According to Wyatt's sworn affidavit, he was called out of his cell ...