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Articles about Wrongful Convictions

North Carolina Brothers Settle Lawsuit Over 31 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment

by Matt Clarke

On April 11, 2017, two North Carolina brothers who had been wrongfully convicted and spent 31 years in prison before being exonerated of a rape-murder by DNA evidence moved to dismiss their lawsuit against the government agencies and law enforcement officers complicit in their wrongful convictions, following ...

Canada to Apologize, Pay $10.5 Million to Former Guantanamo Detainee

by Christopher Zoukis

The Canadian government has agreed to pay $10.5 million to Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as an enemy combatant for over a decade. Canadian officials also agreed to apologize to Khadr for his mistreatment.

The ...

A NY Supreme Court Certifies for Persons Held on ICE Detainers Past Scheduled Release.

A New York Supreme Court certified a class in a lawsuit alleging the New York Department of Corrections (DOC) falsely imprisoned over 9,000 persons with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers. The class consists of all persons who have been unlawfully detained in connection with said ICE detainers in New York City jails after all other conditions for their release had been satisfied.

Oscar Onadia was arrested in NYC on December 10, 2008 for unlicensed driving. He was sentenced to five days of incarceration on the prior charge, and bail was set at $100 on the December 10, 2008 charge. On December 12, 2008, after Onadia’s sentence was completed, he attempted to bail out on the most recent charge, but his bail was refused because ICE had filed an investigative detainer and requested that DOC hold Onadia for up to 48 hours on the detainer.

Onadia wasn’t released until January 23, 2009, 42 days after his scheduled release. He filed a civil lawsuit against DOC, in which he alleged that his extended detention based solely on an ICE investigative detainer constituted false imprisonment and unreasonable seizure. In his discovery he learned that more than 9,000 other detainees had also been ...

$315,00 to Louisiana Man Imprisoned, Deported

by Lonnie Burton

In 2015 the United States government agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a Mexican national who had been a U.S. citizen for six years before Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials rounded him up, threw him in jail for 87 days, then deported him to Mexico where he had no family. The parties agreed to settle the case for $315,000, which does not include compensation for the three years the man was essentially "exiled" in Mexico.

Andres Robles Gonzalez -- identified in court documents as Robles -- became a U.S. citizen on June 13, 2002, when he was just 13 years old. Robles had-been living in the U.S nearly all of his life, since the age of six. In 2008, at age 19, Robles was "unlawfully arrested, detained, prosecuted, and deported" to Mexico by ICE agents, despite the "objectively verifiable fact" that Robles was a U.S. citizen, according to documents filed by Robles' attorneys. As part of the deportation process, Robles was held in jail for 87 days. No reason was given why ICE did not recognize that Robles was a U.S. citizen, and court records merely state that "ICE took no proactive steps ...

$320,000 Settlement in Wrongful Imprisonment Case

by Christopher Zoukis

A federal lawsuit alleging wrongful arrest and imprisonment by the LAPD settled for $320,000 on January 16, 2007.

The case involved the murder of 16-year-old Martha Puebla, who was shot and killed outside her Sun Valley, California home. Puebla was murdered just 11 days after she testified against Jose Ledesma in a gang murder prosecution. Puebla did not testify against Mario Catalan, who was also charged for the gang murder.

The evidence obtained in Puebla's death investigation indicated that she was killed in retaliation for her testimony. The suspected shooter was described by an eyewitness as 5'8", dark skinned, chubby and dressed like a gang member. He was seen driving a black Chevy Malibu with tinted windows. An informant told police that the suspect was named Juan and drove a white Ford F150.

The eyewitness identified Juan Catalan as the shooter in a photo lineup. Catalan, brother of Mario Catalan, was arrested for Puebla's murder.

But the LAPD didn't investigate Catalan beyond the photo lineup. Had they done so, they would have discovered that he was not a gang member, and that he had a rock solid alibi. He was at a Los Angeles Dodgers game when the ...

Sixth Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment Dismissal in Lawsuit Filed by Man Wrongfully Convicted of Arson, Murder

On September 1, 2016, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed a district court order dismissing most of a lawsuit filed by a man who spent 26 years in prison for an arson and murder he didn't commit.

In 1986, David Gavitt was sentenced to life in prison after a Michigan jury found him guilty of arson and felony murder, charges that stemmed from a house fire that took the lives of Gavitt's wife and two daughters. Gavitt was suspected, and later convicted of the charges, based on burn patterns the arson. investigators thought to indicate a fire that was set intentionally.

In September 2011, a motion was filed on Gavitt's behalf by the University of Michigan Law School's Innocence Clinic seeking relief from his judgment and sentence. The motion was based on advances in fire science research and investigation methods that tended to cast doubt on what was believed at the time to be the significance of the burn pattern evidence. In June 2012, a state court judge granted Gavitt's motion based on the newly discovered evidence, vacated the judgment, and released Gavitt from prison.

Two years later Gavitt filed a civil rights action against several city and ...

Seventh Circuit: Falsely Accused Man, Conviction Expunged, Cannot Sue Anonymously

By Christopher Zoukis

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled that a man who was falsely accused of a crime and later had his record expunged cannot sue for malicious prosecution anonymously.

John Doe alleged that he was arrested in the Village of Deerfield, Illinois based on false statements given to the police by Lisa Batchelder and Gary Zalesny. Although Village of Deerfield authorities became aware of the falsity of these statements, they refused to dismiss the case against Doe. Doe was acquitted, and his arrest and prosecution records were later expunged.

Doe anonymously sued Batchelder, Zalesny and the Village of Deerfield for violation of his right to equal protection and for malicious prosecution under Illinois state law. Doe claimed that his arrest and prosecution were "conducted in retaliation for a previous lawsuit he filed against a Village of Deerfield police officer."

The defendants all moved for dismissal of the suit for failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(a), which requires the true names of the parties in the caption of a lawsuit. The District Court granted the dismissal without prejudice, and Doe appealed.

The appellate court first looked at whether the ...

Man Wrongly Imprisoned on Death Row for 28 Years May Sue Ohio

Dale Johnston was convicted of murdering his stepdaughter and her boyfriend and sentenced to death. The decision of a three-judge panel in 1984 was based in part on testimony from a hypnotized witness. He always denied having had an affair with his stepdaughter and having murdered them in a jealous rage--the prosecutor's theory of the case.

In 1993, Johnson filed a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit from death row. It was dismissed because Johnson was unable to prove his innocence.

In 2008, the actual murderer confessed to the crimes. In 2012, Johnson was declared innocent by a county court. The judge ruled that he could seek compensation for wrongful imprisonment, but that ruling was soon overturned by an appeals court which held that he could not attempt to prove wrongful imprisonment a second time.

On October 28, 2015, the Supreme Court of Ohio reversed the ruling of the appeals court, holding that a 2003 statute retroactively authorizes Johnson to seek compensation. This allowed him to maintain his lawsuit.

Attorney Todd Long, who represents Johnson, called the ruling "a good step" and noted that state attorneys "have tried to raise every procedural roadblock that they can," adding, "I hope they change their attitude." ...

Congress Exempts from Taxation Awards to Wrongfully Convicted

by Derek Gilna

Congress has passed the wrongful Conviction Tax Act of 2015 with votes from both sides of the aisle, exempting the damage awarded granted the wrongfully convicted from federal tax liability.   According to the Innocence Project, a prisoner-rights organization who has contributed to the exoneration of dozens of wrongfully-convicted and imprisoned individuals, hailed the new law as "the right thing to do."

According to Marvin Anderson, an Innocence Project board member and a twenty-year prisoner who was finally cleared of rape by DNA evidence, said, " It's crazy that, after stealing years of a person's life, providing little if any help with readjusting to the outside world, the government would want to take away the money that is supposed to help the wrongfully convicted rebuild their lives.  As it is, too many states provide inadequate re-entry services for the wrongfully convicted.  It's as though we are supposed to just pick up from where we left off, but it doesn't work that way...I'm happy Congress passed this bill."

Rebecca Brown, Policy Director for the Innocence Project, noted that, "we must do more to address these reentry needs, and the Wrongful Conviction Tax Relief Act of 2015 is an important ...

$82,500 Damages to Detained American, Federal Judge Blasts ICE

By Christopher Zoukis

In a scathing opinion, Judge Jack B. Weinstein, Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, awarded a wrongfully detained American citizen $82,500 in damages for false arrest and false imprisonment at the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Davino Watson was born in Kingston, Jamaica November 17, 1984. Both of his parents were Jamaican citizens, but after living in America for several years, his father became an American citizen. Watson was 17-years-old at the time, and pursuant to immigration law, he became an American citizen at the same time as his father.

After spending several years in New York State Prison for robbery and drug convictions, Watson was set to be released. Unfortunately for him, the crack ICE deportation team stepped in, decided that he was not an American citizen, and initiated deportation proceedings against him. Based on the files of two Jamaican citizens who were not Watson's parents, ICE detained Watson for a total of 1,273 days before finally realizing that he was an American.

Watson was transferred from New York to Louisiana and eventually to Alabama during his three-and-a-half years of detention. He was eventually released in ...