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Articles about Wrongful Convictions

District of Columbia Jail Pays $14 Million For Over-Detentions and Strip Searches

While denying a pattern and practice of over-detentions and strip searches, the District of Columbia (the District) has agreed to pay $12 million to settle a class-action lawsuit plus an additional $2 million in additional construction funds. The $14 million includes over $4 million in attorney fees, $5 million to ...

Abu Ghraib: Enduring Symbol of Hated Regimes

Abu Ghraib, a 280-acre prison complex located 20 miles west of Baghdad, is a well known symbol to the Iraqi people. Abu Ghraib holds about 3,500 of the approximately 10,500 prisoners held by American forces in Iraq. All prisoners bound for the American militarys three long-term prisons are first processed at Abu Ghraib. Under Saddarn Hussein, it was known as the center of brutal torture and murder of Husseins political opponents. Ironically, that reputation may have grown under Abu Ghraibs U.S. military management. Numerous cases of abuse of prisoners have been well documented and previously reported in PLN. [PLN, Sept. 2004, p.1; Nov. 2006, p. 36; Dec. 2006, p. 1; Apr. 2005,p. 1]. Succinctly said, Abu Ghraib is still known as a place to which people go and, if they return at all, come back in much worse shape than when they entered. It is known as a location of torture and, perhaps worst of all, it is known as the location where thousands of innocent people are imprisoned.

How can these be innocent people? you might ask. After all, they are suspected insurgents and terrorists, arent they? and indeed they are categorized that way by the U.S. government. However, ...

Los Angeles County Jail Continues To Over-Incarcerate

by John E. Dannenberg

After paying $27 million (up to $5,000 per plaintiff) to settle class action lawsuits in 1991 for failing to timely release prisoners from county jail (see PLN, Jan. 2003, p.14), Los Angeles (L.A.) County is still making similar mistakes and paying penalties. In the twelve month period ending in June 2005, records of the L.A. County Sheriffs Department showed that they jailed 66 prisoners who either had never been charged with crimes or who had been court-ordered to be released.

Juan Avalos, a Mexican immigrant living in Orange County with his wife and four children, used to have two jobs. But he lost them when L.A. Sheriffs deputies arrested him in 2004 on an Orange County probation violation warrant and held him for 73 days without any due process. When L.A. County Jail officials realized he had never been taken to Orange County to face a judge, they gave him a check for $500 conditioned upon his signing a waiver to his right to sue for false imprisonment.

Not speaking English, Avalos signed the dotted line and took the money.
While L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca said that no illegal incarceration is acceptable, he opined that ...

No Qualified Immunity on Toothpaste, Inhaler & Ventilation Claims

The Seventh Circuit Court Of Appeals upheld a district courts denial of qualified immunity to jail officials on claims of denial of toothpaste, withholding asthma inhaler and inadequate ventilation.

In 1984, two Indiana men disappeared. Neither the men nor their bodies were ever found but they were declared legally dead. On August 2, 2000, brothers Herbert Duke Board (Duke) and Jerome Board (Jerry)... were arrested and charged with the murders of the two men. They were held in the Edgar County, Illinois, Jail for 126 days while awaiting trial. On December 6, 2000, they were released from custody following their acquittal on the murder charges.

The Boards then brought suit alleging numerous constitutional and state law violations related to their arrest, confinement and subsequent acquittal. Only three claims survived voluntary dismissal in the district courts unchallenged grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The court found that defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity on the Boards claims of denial of toothpaste, withholding asthma inhaler and inadequate ventilation. Defendants filed an interlocutory appeal of the qualified immunity ruling.

The Seventh Circuit explained that the constitutional rights of a pretrial detainee are derived from the Due Process of the ...

Dallas Fake Drug Cases Settle For Millions, Jury Awards Damages

by Michael Rigby

In 2001, police officers in Dallas, Texas, made 33 arrests in what has since become known as the fake drug scandal." The victims were all charged with possessing cocaine, based on supposedly positive field tests of seized substances, when in fact there was little or no trace ...

New York City Pays $75,000 for 28.5 Days False Imprisonment

On September 8, 2005, the City of New York, New York, settled for $75,000 a prisoner's lawsuit alleging 28.5 days false imprisonment.

Plaintiff William Perocier, Jr., a 31 year old tow truck driver, was sentenced to six months in jail in early 2001 for failure to pay child support. The ...

Wrongfully Imprisoned D.C. Disabled Man Settles Suit For $1.74 Million

by Michael Rigby

The District of Columbia and a private medical provider have agreed to pay $1.74 million to Joseph Heard, a deaf, mute, and mentally disabled man who was wrongfully imprisoned in the D.C. jail for nearly two years.

Heard's ordeal [originally reported in PLN, April 2002] began in ...

Florida Jury Awards $225,000 in False Arrest/Malicious Prosecution Claim

A Florida jury has awarded $225,000 in a case against the City of Clearwater and an individual detective on a claim of false arrest, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Plaintiff claimed he was falsely arrested on child molestation charges and the prosecution was continued by the ...

Texas Jails Troubled by Deaths, Negligence and Failed Inspections

For decades Texas jails have been cesspool's of misery, medical neglect, brutality and over crowding. Class action litigation in the 1970's alleviated some of the worst aspects of the Texas jail system and led to modest improvements. By the late 1990's the jail consent decrees and injunctions had been removed thanks to the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Within a few short years, Texas jails had reverted to their old ways.
Dallas County Jail has done it again. Less than a year after the James Mims debacle, which left the mentally retarded man without water for 11 days, Dallas jailers again deprived another prisoner of water for 4 days.
Gil Martinez, 30, was arrested for misdemeanor trespassing. Mr. Martinez, who has mental health problems, plugged up his toilet and flooded his cell to get attention. Jailers responded by shutting off the water.

According to Sgt. Peritz, the water in Martinez' cell was turned off on August 3, 2005 and no one noticed, until August 7, that it had not been turned back on. Policy implemented following the Mims incident requires that both a supervisor and the jail commander be notified before a prisoner's water is turned off. The jail commander ultimately ...

New Jersey Parole Officials Pay $50,000 for Delayed Release

On February 3, 2005, a New Jersey man settled his federal lawsuit against state parole officialswhom he claimed were responsible for his remaining in prison 11 months beyond his approved parole datefor $50,000.

Vincent Pannone was imprisoned on May 7, 1999, for theft by deception and credit card fraud. He ...