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Articles about Wrongful Convictions

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 ...

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 ...

$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 ...

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 ...

Exonerated Colorado Prisoner Receives $1.2 Million under New Compensation Law

Exonerated Colorado Prisoner Receives $1.2 Million under New Compensation Law

by Joe Watson

A man who spent over 17 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit became the first Colorado prisoner to receive damages from the state under a new compensation law.

In September 2013, almost a year-and-a-half after his release from prison, Robert “Rider” Dewey, 52, collected the first $100,000 annual installment of $1.2 million he received from Colorado officials for his wrongful conviction.

“It hasn’t brought me peace of mind. It hasn’t brought me closure,” he said. “It hasn’t made me forget what I went through. Nothing’s going to make that go away.”

Dewey was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 1994 rape and murder of 19-year-old Jacie Taylor in the town of Palisade, Colorado.

After initially refusing to cooperate with the police, Dewey reportedly told detectives he knew Taylor and had been to her apartment, though he always maintained his innocence. Police recovered a bloody shirt in Dewey’s apartment and built their case against him around it, resulting in his conviction.

New DNA technology, however, not only resulted in Dewey being released in April 2012 but also ...

Ninth Circuit Upholds $106,000 in Damages Plus Attorney Fees for Withheld Evidence

Ninth Circuit Upholds $106,000 in Damages Plus Attorney Fees for Withheld Evidence

by Mark Wilson

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a $106,000 damage award and over $348,300 in attorney fees and costs for an innocent man’s 27-month pretrial confinement after two police detectives knowingly ...

Exonerated Texas Prisoner’s Ex-Wife Not Entitled to Compensation

Exonerated Texas Prisoner’s Ex-Wife Not Entitled to Compensation

by Matt Clarke

In a May 12, 2014 opinion, a Texas Court of Appeals held that the former wife of a prisoner who spent over 24 years in prison was not entitled to a portion of the $2 million he received in compensation.

“Steven Phillips and Traci Tucker were married in 1980. Two years later, Phillips was arrested, convicted and ultimately incarcerated” on a rape charge. They divorced in 1992.

Phillips was released on parole in 2007. The next year, DNA testing proved he had not committed the rape, which made him eligible for $80,000 per year of wrongful confinement under the Tim Cole Act, § 103.052(a) of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. [See: PLN, Aug. 2010, p.12].

Tucker then filed suit against Phillips, seeking a portion of the compensation under the theory that some of the money was for lost wages while the couple was still married. The state trial court agreed, awarding Tucker $114,459.50 of the compensation funds plus attorney fees and costs.

The Court of Appeals held that “(1) no portion of the amount [Phillips] was awarded under the Act ...

Second Circuit: Brady Claim Not Barred by Heck

Second Circuit: Brady Claim Not Barred by Heck

by Mark Wilson

The en banc Second Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a Brady claim is not Heck-barred when a defendant’s conviction is vacated but he subsequently pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for immediate release.

During a March 1997 robbery, two men shot New York cab driver Younis Duopo. Only a spent shell casing, five one-dollar bills and a black hat were found during an initial search.

The next day a detective searched the cab again and supposedly discovered a wallet containing two identification cards belonging to Francisco Poventud. The ID cards were used to create a photo array that was shown to Duopo, and he unequivocally identified Francisco as the shooter.

Francisco, however, had an iron-clad alibi: he was incarcerated when Duopo was shot. So detectives focused on Francisco’s brother, Marcos Poventud, even though he did not resemble the photo of Francisco that Duopo had identified as the shooter.

“On consecutive days one week after the crime,” detectives “showed Duopo photo arrays containing [Marcos] Poventud’s picture,” but Duopo did not identify him as the perpetrator. One day later, Duopo was shown Marcos’ photo ...

Houston Settles Wrongful Conviction Suit for $3 Million

Houston Settles Wrongful Conviction Suit for $3 Million

by Matt Clarke

On November 2, 2012, the City of Houston, Texas agreed to settle a lawsuit arising out of the wrongful conviction for rape and imprisonment for 17 years of George Rodriguez. A federal jury had previously found the City liable ...

Maryland Jury Awards $5.6 Million for False Arrest and Detention

Maryland Jury Awards $5.6 Million for False Arrest and Detention

by Matt Clarke

On October 25, 2012, a Maryland jury awarded a man $5.6 million for damages incurred after he was arrested in Washington, D.C. on an invalid computer entry indicating an active bench warrant from Prince ...