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Articles about Wrongful Convictions

Prisoners Have Right to Prompt Sentence Computation

David Plumb is an Oregon state prisoner. He filed suit under § 1983 claiming that his right to due process under the fourteenth amendment and his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the eighth amendment were violated by state and county officials. He claimed that they delayed his receiving Credit for Time Served (CTS) in a county jail which resulted in his being wrongfully imprisoned for 83 days after the date on which he should have been released. The court rejected the Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation granting the state and county's motion for summary judgement when it ruled that the county was not entitled to qualified immunity and that Plumb's eighth and fourteenth amendment rights were indeed violated.

Plumb had spent 83 days in county jail prior to being sent to the Oregon DOC to serve his 12 month sentence. He asked state authorities to credit him with his 83 days CTS. They said that they would credit him with any CTS he could get the county officials to certify. Plumb wrote the county officials several times in order to certify his jail time and return it to his captors, the Oregon DOC. The county ...

BOP Liable for Recalculating Sentence

Kent Alexander is a former federal prisoner. In 1986 he was released after serving a three year federal sentence. Eighty days later he was arrested for "violation of parole" and placed in FCI Tucson. The prison administrative systems manager, Luis Rivera, told Alexander that the BOP had recalculated his previously completed sentence and extended it by 245 days claiming that the time he had spent in a German jail awaiting extradition to the US did not count against his sentence as they had previously determined.

Several times after his reincarceration Alexander requested that Rivera and William Perrill, the warden, investigate the matter. Alexander provided them with certified court documents entitling him to the jail credits and German court orders denying him release on bail due to the US extradition request. The recalculation of Alexander's sentence had been made by the Bureau of Prison's (BOP) central office in Washington D.C. Rivera and Perrill made no inquiries, conducted no investigation, did not forward the documents to the BOP central office and made no effort to determine if the BOP was aware of all the facts submitted by Alexander.

After administrative remedies proved unsuccessful, Alexander filed, and was granted, a writ of habeas ...

Section 1983 Proper Remedy for Illegal Confinement

Spencer Parker is a Texas state prisoner. He filed suit under § 1983 claiming he was arrested and indicted for a burglary even though no evidence linked him to the crime. After nine months in jail the charges were dropped and he was released. While in jail he had suffered severe injuries. The district court dismissed Parker's suit as being frivolous under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (d), the in forma pauperis (IFP) statute.

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded.

The appeals court gives a detailed discussion of the difference between dismissals under § 1915 (d) (frivolous with no arguable basis in fact or law) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 (b) (6) (failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted). The appeals court reviews § 1915 (d) dismissals for abuse of discretion by the lower court.

The district court had dismissed Parker's suit by ruling that because he was challenging the validity of his confinement his only remedy under law was the writ of habeas corpus. The appeals court disagreed. It holds that because Parker is not challenging his present confinement he is free to use § 1983 to seek ...

Prison Officials Liable for Holding Inmate Past Release Date

Gentry Slone is a Missouri state prisoner. He was sentenced to prison and once in prison his sentencing judge suspended Slone's sentence, effective December 21, 1989, and placed him on probation. The state did not appeal the judges order which then became final and non appealable on December 11, 1989.

Prison officials wrote to the judge to inform him they had decided not to release Slone because they did not believe Missouri statutes authorized his release. The judge told them Slone's release was indeed authorized and that he expected the DOC to execute his order. Eight months after Slone should have been released the court convened a court hearing, had Slone brought to court and released him from the court.

Slone then filed suit under § 1983 contending that prison officials had violated his right to due process. Prison officials sought summary judgement on qualified immunity which the district court denied. The court of appeals affirmed the denial of qualified immunity and remanded the case for trial.

The appeals court gives an explanation of the qualified immunity doctrine. The court held that as soon as the state's judge's order releasing Slone became nonappealable the state lost its lawful authority to ...

Federal Prisoner Must Exhaust BOP Remedies Before Seeking Habeas Corpus Relief

Federal prisoner Ivan Gonzalez was convicted of possession with intent to distribute three kilograms of cocaine. He was sentenced to five years of imprisonment. The U.S. Parole Commission calculated a presumptive parole date of May 30, 1990. When that date came and went the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) did not release Gonzalez, and he remained incarcerated. In February of 1991 Gonzalez filed for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. He claimed that because his release date had passed he did not have to exhaust administrative remedies before seeking judicial relief. The district court denied the petition.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the writ. The appeals court held that while the courts have original jurisdiction in imposing sentences, the BOP is responsible for computing that sentence and applying the appropriate good time credits.

Because the BOP has established regulations that set forth procedures for prisoners to follow before seeking relief from a district court, the administrative remedies must be exhausted before a federal court has jurisdiction to hear a petition for writ of habeas corpus. See, Gonzalez v. United States , 959 F.2d 211 (11 Cir. 1992).