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Articles about Wrongful Convictions

Doing “Katrina Time”

Doing "Katrina Time"

by Bob Williams

Last month, PLN's cover story addressed the terrors and tribulations faced by prisoners when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans on August 29, 2005 -- not just the horrors of the storm, but also the brutality and abuse inflicted by ill-prepared and sadistic prison guards.

Unfortunately, for many prisoners the ordeal didn't end there. With court records lost or under water, evidence and witnesses scattered far and wide, and the New Orleans justice system in shambles, thousands of prisoners were held for lengthy periods of time without trials or past their release dates. Their odyssey became known as doing "Katrina time."

Over 6,000 prisoners who had been packed into the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) were displaced as a result of Hurricane Katrina. By September 2, 2005, almost all of those prisoners had been removed from the flooded jail buildings; they were bused to 38 facilities across the state, including the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, Jena Correctional Facility, Bossier Parish Maximum Security Jail, Lafayette Parish Correctional Center, and the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Another 2,000 prisoners were evacuated from surrounding areas.

Due to a complete lack of preparedness by OPP officials, during the evacuation the ...

California State Prisoner Wins $21,800 for 250 Days Excess Incarceration

On July 5, 2006, a jury awarded $21,800 to a California state prisoner after the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) miscalculated his good time/work time credits on his twelve year sentence.

Jorge Gallegos, a Mexican national, was sentenced to state prison in September 1995. With CDCR?s then-current credit ...

Maryland Man Awarded $6.4 Million For False Imprisonment, Police Misconduct

On August 30, 2006, a jury in Prince George?s County, Maryland, awarded $6.4 million to a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for the brutal rape and murder of his wife. During trial the jury heard compelling evidence indicating that County Police Department detectives lied about the suspect?s supposed confession, denied ...

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 ...