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Articles about Wrongful Convictions

$750,000 Settlement for MI Man Wrongfully Jailed for Murder of Girlfriend's Infant Son

by Joe Watson

Matthew Ditzhazy, who was acquitted of charges that he murdered his girlfriend’s 19-month-old son, reached a $750,000 settlement agreement in July 2008 with the city of Lincoln Park, Mich., near Detroit, where he spent a year and a half in jail.

Three adults were in the house ...

Former Texas Police Officer’s Sexual Assault Case Reversed After 21 Years

by Matt Clarke

Brian Edward Franklin was a Fort Worth, Texas police officer for more than a decade before he was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sentenced to life in prison in 1995. On April 6, 2016, the highest criminal court in Texas reversed his conviction, saying the state’s case against him relied on perjured testimony. The testimony in question was that of the alleged victim. The court noted that her perjury had caused other witnesses to give false testimony as well, depriving Franklin of due process.

The reversal allowed the state to prosecute Franklin again using the same indictment. However, there was no DNA or other forensic evidence to support the allegations of sexual assault. And since Franklin’s conviction was reversed based on perjured testimony – upon which the prosecution’s case rested – it would be extraordinarily difficult for prosecutors to win a conviction at a second trial.

On May 4, 2016, two days after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued its mandate reversing the case, Franklin appeared before state District Judge Wayne Salvant for a bond hearing. The bond was set at $10,000 and Franklin was released the next day.

In state habeas ...

Ignorance, Bureaucracy and Red Tape: U.S. Citizens Mistakenly Deported

by Christopher Zoukis

According to Bryan Cox, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), “claims of U.S. citizenship of individuals encountered by ICE officers, agents, and attorneys are immediately and carefully investigated and analyzed.” However, the United States has a long history of mistakenly deporting its own citizens; since 2003, more than 20,000 U.S. citizens have been detained or deported by immigration officials. [See: PLN, March 2013, p.40].

Consider the case of Andres Robles Gonzalez, who was deported to Mexico at age 19 despite the fact that he was an American citizen. For over three years he tried to convince authorities of his citizenship. Eventually, the evidence to support his claim was found in an unusual place: the U.S. government’s own records.

Armed with that information, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued Gonzalez a certificate of citizenship. Problem solved? Not quite. Despite acknowledging his citizenship and issuing the certificate, USCIS could not provide that evidence to Gonzalez because he had already been deported.

Jonathan Crawford, the New Orleans-based field director for USCIS, nicely summed up this Catch-22 when he told Gonzalez, “Your N-600 Application for a Certificate of Citizenship was approved on June 15, 20011 [sic]. ...

New York Court of Claims Awards $90,000 for Overextended Incarceration/Parole

On April 2, 2015, the New York State Court of Claims awarded a former prisoner $90,000 for being incarcerated and subjected to parole after the expiration of his sentence.

The New York Department of Corrections and Community Services failed to credit Alvin Torres with the proper amount of jail time ...

$340,000 Awarded to Man Chicago Detective Falsely Claimed had Confessed to Murder

Leonard Robinson was arrested by Chicago police for battery. That charge was eventually dropped, but while he was held in jail for two days, then charged with killing his girlfriend's three-year-old son forty-one months earlier. He remained in jail another three years until a jury found him not guilty of murder. He filed suit in state court alleging police had no probable cause to arrest him for murder and no scientific evidence or witness testimony linked him to the child's death.

Without any written or recorded proof of the matter, Detective Vincent Humphrey, who is not a homicide detective and never worked on the child's case, claimed Robinson confessed the murder to him. Robinson claimed Humphrey falsely claimed there was a confession and had inappropriate communications with his wife multiple times which he failed to log. He said Humphrey kept Robinson in jail on the bogus charge so he could hit on Robinson's wife.

During the criminal trial, the judge barred evidence regarding the alleged confession and questioned Humphrey's veracity, concluding that no such confession was ever made.

At the first civil trial, the jury hung. At a second trial which concluded on May 1, 2015, Robinson was awarded $300,000 ...

$13 Million Ohio Wrongful Conviction Verdict Upheld by Sixth Circuit

On December 2, 2014, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed a district court jury verdict which awarded $13 million to a man who spent 12 years in prison for a murder conviction later overturned for malicious prosecution and Sixth Amendment violations. The verdict came just a little over one year after the Sixth Circuit reversed the man's conviction when it granted his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

David Ayers was convicted in 1999 for the murder of a Cleveland woman, Dorothy Brown. After initially focusing their attention on another suspect, police turned their investigation to Ayers after he appeared to fail a voice stress test, which was administered after police received false information from a witness implicating Ayers in the crime.

After Ayers was arrested, two Cleveland police detectives used a jailhouse informant to elicit information from Ayers about the woman's death. When the informant did not provide enough details about the crime, the detectives sent him back into Ayers' pod to further question him. The trial court later denied Ayers' motion to suppress the informant's testimony on the basis that police had illegally used the informant as their agent in violation of Ayers' Sixth Amendment ...

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

By Cathy Young, Slate

In the emotionally charged conversation about rape, few topics are more fraught than that of false allegations. Consider some responses to the news that singer-songwriter Conor Oberst had been falsely accused of sexual assault. Last December a woman writing in the comments section of the website xoJane, going by the name Joanie Faircloth, claimed Oberst raped her when she was a teenager. The charge spread across the Internet; Oberst denied it and brought a libel suit against Faircloth when she refused to retract the story. In July she completely recanted, admitting that she had made it all up to get attention. Yet instead of showing sympathy for the ordeal of the musician—one known for being supportive of feminist issues—some chided him for taking legal action to defend himself against a false, career-damaging charge. In the Daily Dot, pop culture critic Chris Ostendorf decried the lawsuit, arguing that it could intimidate real victims of rape and that it promoted the idea of men as victims of false accusations—even though that’s exactly what Oberst was. After Oberst dropped the suit, Bustle’s Caroline Pate praised his decision and referred to the saga ...

$175,000 in Damages, Attorney Fees Against Sentinel Offender Services

A Georgia state jury awarded $50,000 to a woman for false arrest and imprisonment by Sentinel Offender Services, a private probation company. The award was the outcome in the first trial of more than a dozen lawsuits filed against the company.

Kathleen Hucks was sentenced to two years of misdemeanor probation in April 2006. In 2008, her sister paid off the $3,256 Hucks owed the court. Sentinel, however, kept Hucks under its supervision because she had not completed a risk-reduction class or shown proof of drug and alcohol treatment.

It was not until 2012 that Hucks was finally released from probation, but only after she was jailed after Sentinel obtained an arrest warrant because she had failed to pay accumulated fees of nearly $300.

Hucks was repeatedly hospitalized between 2006 and 2012 for seizures and a heart problem. Upon her arrest, her husband took her medication to the jail but it was not accepted. Three days later she had a seizure. “She could have died,” her husband testified.

For the next three weeks, Hucks sat in jail awaiting a hearing. Within minutes of appearing before the court, she was ordered released because her sentence had expired in 2008 – four ...

A Story of Racial Bias, the Absence of Mercy, and a Death in Prison

By Equal Justice Initiative

Forty-five years after Phillip Chance traveled from his home in Detroit, Michigan to visit family in rural Choctaw, Alabama, he died in an Alabama prison.

During that visit in 1971, 15-year-old Phillip Chance and his older brother went with their cousin to a local convenience store, where their cousin robbed and killed the store clerk. Phillip cooperated with the police and told them where his cousin hid the stolen money, but the Alabama prosecutors claimed Phillip and his brother helped plan the robbery and charged all three black teenagers with the murder of the white clerk. Phillip’s lawyer advised him to plead guilty and assured Phillip he would get out of prison in a year based on good behavior. Phillip pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment with parole.

Phillip was sent to an adult prison, where he was such an exemplary prisoner that he earned his way from a maximum-security prison to a work-release program, where he was assigned to drive a Department of Corrections van. In 1981, despite his excellent behavior and trustworthiness, the Alabama parole board denied Mr. Chance parole, asserting that he was a threat to the community. A few days later, Mr. Chance walked ...

Texas: “San Antonio Four” Exonerated after Two Decades

In 1997, Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera and Anna Vasquez were convicted of sexually assaulting two young girls. The women came to be known as the “San Antonio Four.”

With help from the Innocence Project of Texas, all four were eventually exonerated. Rivera had been paroled in 2012 but the other women were released on bail in 2013 after new evidence came to light. According to a November 23, 2016 ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, “They are innocent. And they are exonerated. This court grants them the relief they seek.” See: Ex parte Mayhugh, 2016 Tex. Crim. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1057 (Tex. Crim. App. 2016).

“I still can’t grasp the fact of just being free, finally, after all this time,” said Ramirez. “Unbelievable. It’s been a long time coming, 22 years now,” Vasquez added. “I called my mom, my family, and we’re just filled with joy today. We’re so thankful,” stated Rivera.

District Attorney Nico LaHood said of the ruling, “It has been a long legal process for these women and our office has worked with the defense to ensure justice was done in this case. With today’s announcement, we believe the Texas Court of ...