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Articles about Wrongful Convictions

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. “We thought his case ...

$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 the Illinois ...

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 system did finally work," ...

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 to treat the boy's head injury (called ...

$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 kept in lockup. ...

Oregon Wrongful Imprisonment Time-Bar Dismissal Reversed

Oregon Wrongful Imprisonment Time-Bar Dismissal Reversed

On March 26, 2014, the Oregon Court of Appeals held that if service of summons is completed within 60 days of filing a tort claim against a public body, the action is commenced the day the complaint is filed.

Under the Oregon Tort Claims Act (OTCA), a tort action may not be brought against a public body, its officers, employees, or agents, unless “notice of claim” is given “within 180 days after the alleged loss or injury.” ORS 30.275(2)(b). Filing suit within that 180-day period constitutes “notice of claim.”

In 2000, Philip Scott Cannon was wrongfully convicted of three counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison. On September 2, 2009, the state stipulated to entry of a post-conviction judgment that set aside those convictions due to flawed forensic analysis, evidence mishandling, and other issues.

Under the OTCA, Cannon had until March 1, 2010 – 180 days from September 2, 2009 - to provide notice of his claim. He provided that notice by filing a state court action on February 26,2010, alleging various tort claims against the Oregon Department of Justice, the Oregon State Police, Oregon State University (which tested evidence for the ...

Oregon Prisoners Must Attach Evidence to Petitions for Post-Conviction Release

Oregon Prisoners Must Attach Evidence to Petitions for Post-Conviction Release

On June 12, 2014, the En Banc Oregon Supreme Court held that a post-conviction relief (PCR) petitioner must attach an affidavit or other evidence, supporting every element of every claim asserted in the petition.

Oregon first enacted its Post-Conviction Hearing Act (PCHA) in 1959. Those procedures remain substantially the same today.

ORS 138.580(1959) required that “affidavits, records or other documentary evidence supporting the allegations of the (PCR) petition shall be attached to the petition,” or the petitioner was required to explain why they were unable to attach those documents. This was not “a vehicle for weeding out purportedly unfounded petitions,” the Court found. “Instead, its purpose, perhaps, was to provide a bit of clarity to the ‘often illiterate and unintelligible’ pleadings filed by post-conviction petitioners.”

In 1993, Oregon lawmakers eliminated the attachment requirement exception. The amendment was to ensure that prisoners “would not have the out that they currently have that they could just explain why they didn’t do it,” testified Assistant Attorney General Brenda Peterson.

The “attachment requirement of ORS 138.580 is mandatory.” Yet, “the PCHA does not expressly provide for any particular sanction or remedy for failure to” ...

$250,000 Awarded in Legal Malpractice Case

$250,000 Awarded in Legal Malpractice Case

A New York federal judge upheld a magistrate's report and recommendation and awarded $250,000 to a man who said he wrongly spent 25 days in a mental hospital and his lawyer failed to file the necessary paperwork to compensate him for that time.

Charles ...

First Circuit Vacates Massachusetts Prisoner’s $325,956.36 Damages, Attorney Fee Award

First Circuit Vacates Massachusetts Prisoner’s $325,956.36 Damages, Attorney Fee Award

by Mark Wilson

On September 24, 2014, the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that Massachusetts prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity for segregating a pretrial detainee. Accordingly, the Court reversed the prisoner’s $47,500 damage award plus an award of $258,000 in attorney fees and $20,456.36 in costs.

Albert Ford was confined at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction (MCI-Cedar Junction). He was repeatedly placed in the Department Disciplinary Unit (DDU), a maximum-security housing unit, for weapon possession, conspiring to introduce heroin, conspiring to assault other prisoners and other serious misconduct.

Ford violently attacked two guards and took a nurse hostage in 2002. He stabbed both guards with a 4½-inch shank, then held the knife to the nurse’s throat. One guard required immediate medical care for puncture wounds to his mid- and lower back.

Ford was charged with armed assault with intent to murder. At a January 2003 disciplinary hearing, he was also sanctioned with 10 years in DDU – the maximum possible DDU sanction.

Ford completed his original sentence on January 6, 2007 but remained incarcerated as a pretrial detainee on the assault charges. His DDU sanction ...