Innocence Project

Strictly Speaking: The Argument for Holding States Strictly Liable in Wrongful Conviction Suits

(Source)   The wrongfully convicted are an oft overlooked demographic of the American population because society views wrongful convictions as rarely occurring. But in fact, the numbers are quite staggering. The number of people exonerated in the last 30 years due to actual innocence? 2,500. The combined number of years unnecessarily spent in prison? 22,315. But the percentage of exonerees who ever receive compensation for wrongful imprisonment? Only 39%. Despite the American legal system resting on the fundamental principle of holding people liable for injuries inflicted onto others, fifteen jurisdictions within the United States lack statutory protections that allow the wrongfully convicted to seek civil remedies for the years lost due to their illegitimate imprisonment caused at the hands of the state. However, even in states that do statutorily provide compensation to the wrongfully convicted, it has become common practice for prosecutors to effectively coerce inmates into waiving their right to sue for damages in exchange for a sooner release date. For instance, in 2016, Jimmy Dennis, a man who spent twenty-five years on death row for a crime he did not commit, was offered an immediate release from prison so long as he pled no contest to third-degree murder. [read more]

An Examination of Compensation Following Wrongful Convictions

(Source) As mass incarceration continues to plague the United States criminal justice system, improved technology and evidence-gathering techniques seek to identify and exonerate the wrongfully convicted. Those accused of a crime may be wrongfully convicted for a variety of reasons such as eyewitness misidentifications, coerced false confessions, faulty forensics science, incompetent public defenders, and suppression of important evidence by prosecuting attorneys. Organizations such as The Innocence Project have been instrumental in helping to uncover cases of previous wrongful convictions. The increase in exonerations such as with the Central Park 5 (recently renamed the Exonerated 5) brings into focus the issue of compensation for errors in convictions that result in an innocent person time in prison for crimes he or she did not commit. In order to properly examine the issue, it is necessary to first evaluate the current system that is in place on the federal and state levels. In 2004, Congress passed the Justice for All Act which guarantees individuals exonerated of federal crimes $50,000 for every year they spent in prison and $100,000 for every year they spent on death row. This Act specifically delineates the federal compensation scheme; however, from state to state, the exonerated individuals do [read more]