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Articles about Wrongful Convictions

Los Angeles Sheriff's Over-Detention Policy Renders County Liable Under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that Los Angeles County Jail prisoners who were kept beyond their release dates for the purpose of awaiting the completion of records searches for any outstanding warrants or detainers could sue for money damages under 42 USC § 1983.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) had a longstanding policy that when a prisoner at the LA County Jail reaches his/her due date for release, only then is the routine pre-release records search commenced for outstanding holds, warrants and detainers. As a result, prisoners are detained past the service of their sentences until the administrative checks are completed, often one or two days later.

Valerie Streit was among six groups of prisoners who sued Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block and the County for damages in federal district court (C.D. Cal.) under § 1983, alleging defendants were liable because they had a policy of intentionally over detaining prisoners in violation of their California and United States constitutional rights.

Defendants moved unsuccessfully to have the suits dismissed because the LASD claimed it was performing a law enforcement function, not an administrative function, when checking for such holds/detainers; because the LASD was not a ...

'Invisible' Prisoner Gets $36,200 for Wrongful Imprisonment

A Mississippi man who was improperly jailed for nearly 10 months because of a "bureaucratic snafu" was awarded just $36,200 by a federal jury in Jackson, Mississippi in October 2000.

Joseph Jones, a Jackson mechanic, was stopped by a state patrol officer in June 1994, at which time the officer ...

Unlawful Imprisonment Nets Ohio Man $25,000

In late 2000 ex-Ohio state prisoner Ricky Carter, 44, agreed to accept a $25,000 award to compensate him for being incarcerated over 13 months past his release date. Carter, who was due to be released March 15, 1998, was instead illegally held until April 28, 1999. Ohio prison official Joe ...

$5,500 Awarded in NY Unlawful Imprisonment Suit

On May 4, 2000, the New York court of Claims awarded Allen Israel $5,600 in damages after New York parole officials wrongfully violated his parole. Israel had a maximum parole expiration date of April 12, 1996. His parole was later revoked due to a traffic offense but no new maximum ...

$49,999 Settlement in CA Sex Extortion Suit

On February 1, 2000, San Bernadino County, California settled a lawsuit with Jeffrey Darr for $49,999. Darr filed suit claiming that county sheriff deputy James Wiebeld (now promoted to detective) had framed him on methamphetamine manufacturing charges, for which he spent three years in jail awaiting trial, so Wiebeld could ...

$105,000 Awarded in Michigan Wrongful Imprisonment Suit

On April 14, 1999, a Wayne county jury in Michigan awarded Willie Thomas Jr., Larry Reid and Edward Grant $35,000 in damages each. The three men had been Michigan state prisoners who were released after serving their entire sentences. Several months later, the Michigan DOC ordered their arrest claiming that ...

$3,000 Awarded in Wrongful Release Suit

On October 29, 1999, the New York court of claims awarded. $3,000 in damages to Frank Nicchio. Nicchio was a New York state prisoner who was wrongly held 30 days past his release date from prison. Nicchio was granted summary judgment on the issue of liability. The case went to ...

BOP Can't Keep Prisoner Who Refuses to Pay Fine Indefinitely

A federal district court judge in Virginia held that a prisoner's refusal to sign an agreement to pay a court ordered fine does not allow the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to keep him imprisoned indefinitely. This ruling amply illustrates the vast power and arrogance of the BOP. Its facts are unusual to say the least.

Jabari Zakiya was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison for tax evasion and failing to file income tax returns. He was also fined $25,000, given three years supervised release and a $200 special assessment. He self reported to prison on January 5, 1995 and his sentence, with no good time reductions, should have ended on May 5, 1996. His good time release date was February 29, 1996.

Prior to his scheduled good time release date, the BOP gave Zakiya a form to sign whereby he would agree to pay, while on supervised release, the remaining balance of the fine. Zakiya refused to sign the form for political reasons and has languished in prison ever since, years after his sentence expired! The BOP insists that it can keep Zakiya in prison until he dies if he does not sign the form.

Various pro se habeas ...

CSC Cancels Florida Juvenile Facility Contract

Correctional Services Corp. (CSC) announced Aug. 23, 1999 that it was withdrawing from an $8.7 million-a-year contract to operate the Pahokee Youth Development Center, a 350 bed Florida juvenile facility, 8 months before the contract is due to expire.

The announcement came six weeks after the Pahokee facility failed a major state inspection and one week before a court hearing on safety concerns at the privately-operated youth center. State inspectors had criticized the facility's counseling services, poor physical condition, education programs, disruptive atmosphere and continued complaints of physical abuse by staff members.

After reviewing the inspection report Juvenile Court Judge Ron Alvarez compared the CSC-run youth center to a "third-world country that is controlled by ... some type of evil power," and gave the company 7 weeks to make improvements. "Treatment of these children, so far, based upon this report, comes dangerously close to being inhumane," Alvarez said.

The Pahokee youth center has gone through five administrators since it opened in 1997, and has been criticized by state monitors and child-welfare advocates for poor manageme nt and excessive use of force. The Washington-based Youth Law Center has condemned conditions at the facility as a "denial of basic constitutional rights." There ...

Probable Cause Hearing Delay Actionable

The court of appeals for the Seventh circuit held that the fact issue as to whether an arrestee's detention without a probable cause hearing resulted from the sheriff's deliberate decision not to monitor detainees brought to jail by outside agencies precluded summary judgement for the sheriff on an official capacity claim. However, the court also held that the sheriff could not be held liable in his individual capacity.

On December 22, 1993, 18 year old Billy Luck was arrested by Indiana State Trooper Thomas Littlefield after admitting to Littlefield that he had been involved in some recent thefts. Luck was transported to the Kosiusko County Jail, where Trooper Littlefield relinquished custody of Luck to the authority of Sheriff Rovenstine.

Luck was processed into the jail on a charge of felony theft, where he languished for eight days without a probable cause hearing. On day eight, Sheriff Rovenstine was informed that Luck had been detained for eight days on the basis of a warrantless arrest without being brought before a judge or magistrate for a probable cause hearing. After Sheriff Rovenstine contacted the Kosciusko County Prosecutor's office, he was directed to release Luck, who was then released the same day.

After ...