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Articles about Wrongful Convictions

$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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Final Class-Action Settlement Pending in “Kids for Cash” Scandal

Final Class-Action Settlement Pending in “Kids for Cash” Scandal

A class-action suit is on the verge of being settled by the co-owner of two for-profit juvenile detention facilities in Pennsylvania, who was sued after a pair of state court judges accepted bribes to improperly funnel juvenile offenders into the facilities. A proposed $4.75 million settlement was filed in March 2015 but has not yet been approved by U.S. District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo.

In related developments, on March 3, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of one of the former judges who challenged his conviction and federal prison sentence. The refusal leaves intact a Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the conviction and 28-year sentence imposed on former Luzerne County judge Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr., 63. See: United States v. Ciavarella, 716 F.3d 705 (3d Cir. 2013), cert. denied. Fellow former Luzerne County judge Michael T. Conahan is serving a 17½ year sentence after pleading guilty to racketeering conspiracy. [See: PLN, Nov. 2011, p.14].

“We’re very pleased with the Supreme Court decision not to hear his appeal,” said U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith, whose office prosecuted Ciavarella ...

$4.2 Million for Wrongfully Convicted Illinois Man Denied Exculpatory Evidence

$4.2 Million for Wrongfully Convicted Illinois Man Denied Exculpatory Evidence

A $4.2 million settlement has been reached in a civil rights lawsuit filed by a wrongfully convicted Illinois man.

Maurice Patterson was convicted of a 2002 murder and spent over eight years in the Cook County Jail and ...

Texas Cops Granted Qualified Immunity for False Arrest, Malicious Prosecution

Texas Cops Granted Qualified Immunity for False Arrest, Malicious Prosecution

by David Reutter

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the grant of summary judgment to two police officers sued for false arrest and malicious prosecution by two men who spent nine-months in jail for murder. The Court, however, reversed the denial of a motion to amend claims against the county, but affirmed that denial as to claims against an officer not named in the original complaint.

Shannon Finley, Brandon McClelland, and Ryan Crostley spent the evening of September 15, 2008, drinking beer and smoking marijuana. At some point, McClelland and Finley took Xanax. Because they could not purchase alcohol in Texas after midnight, the three got into Finley’s truck and went to Oklahoma to buy more beer.

Because the transmission in Finley’s truck was malfunctioning, they drove slowly on back county roads on the return trip. At some point, McClelland and Crostley began arguing with Finley about whether he was too drunk to drive. When Finley refused to let either of the others drive, McClelland exited the truck and Finley and Crostley drove away. They returned to retrieve McClelland, but he refused to get into the truck. Other than ...

Two Men Win $8 Million for Wrongful Conviction

Two Men Win $8 Million for Wrongful Conviction

Two Chicago men who spent more than 12 years in prison for a rape and murder they did not commit will receive $4 million each from the city.

In 1988 Larry Ollins and Omar Sanders were sentenced to life in prison after they and two other men were arrested and charged with the 1986 death of Rush University medical student Lori Roscetti, 23. Rossetti was abducted from Chicago's West Side, then raped and killed.

All four men were eventually exonerated by DNA testing and pardoned by then-Governor George Ryan.

The two other men also received settlements from the city. Calvin Ollins, who is Larry's cousin, received $1.5M, and Marcellius Bradford got a $900K award.

According to Jenny Hoyle, spokeswoman for the city's law department, Sanders and Larry Ollins received larger settlements for two reasons: The amounts were recommended by a federal mediator; and the two were only charged in the case after Bradford and Calvin Ollins implicated them in their confessions to Chicago police. Bradford and Calvin Ollins, who received reduced sentences for agreeing to testify against Larry Ollins, maintain that their confessions were coerced.

"The criminal justice ...

Over $750,000 Awarded in California Wrongful Conviction

Over $750,000 Awarded in California Wrongful Conviction

A California state compensation board recently awarded $756,900 to a man who wrongly spent nearly 21 years in prison for the death of his girlfriend’s child, now believed to have been an accident.

The amount, which represents $100 for every day he spent in prison, was awarded to Kenneth Marsh by the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, and was the largest the board has ever offered for a wrongful conviction, according to a board spokeswoman.

Marsh, who is now 58, was convicted in 1983 of second- degree murder after his girlfriend's 2-year-old son, Phillip Buell, died from a head injury. Marsh had refused all plea deals, maintaining that the boy fell from a couch and hit his head on the fireplace. Prosecutor's said Marsh beat the boy to death.

Almost 21 years after the boy's death, the San Diego district attorney asked for a new trial for Marsh when doctors raised doubt about Marsh's guilt. The case was later dropped and Marsh was released from prison that year.

The doctors, who were retained by Marsh's attorneys, believed that a drug administered by physicians in 1983 ...

$2,225 Awarded for 3 Months Wrongful Segregation

$2,225 Awarded for 3 Months Wrongful Segregation

A New York state prisoner who claimed he was wrongfully kept in segregation for 89 days was awarded $2,225 by a New York Court of Claims judge in May 2012. The amount represented $25.00 for each day Tyrone Rivers was ...