From the Associated Press News Wire
May 9, 1998

Pair falsely convicted will get $2 million
Money won't replace years lost in prison, they say

Charles E. Beggs - Associated Press

EUGENE, Ore. _ Two men who spent eight years behind bars for a murder they didn't commit said Friday that a $2 million settlement can't buy back the years of their youth that were taken away.

``It has been a long journey,'' Eric Proctor said through tears as he and Chris Boots faced the media in a television studio. ``I just lied to myself and told myself I was going home every week.''

The two men agreed on Thursday to accept the settlement of their lawsuit alleging that Springfield police pressured witnesses and hid evidence in the 1983 convenience store slaying. The pair was convicted, sentenced to life and only freed in 1994 when evidence pointed to another man.

``I don't know that you can put worth on this,'' Proctor said. ``The money is what society says makes a wrong right.''

Both men were in their early 20s when they were sent to prison. Proctor is now a 33-year-old plasterboard worker in Portland. Boots, 34, has worked in a sawmill in Eugene.

Proctor said he learned something about himself during his years in prison: ``I am a good person and can rise above it.''

Boots agreed but said ``If I had a choice I'd rather have my youth back.''

The case began early June 7, 1983, when the body of John Oliver was found in the walk-in cooler at a 7-Eleven store. His hands had been bound with tape and he'd been shot three times in the head with a .22-caliber handgun.

Boots admitted going into the store on the night of the killing while Proctor waited outside. Boots said he found no clerk in the store, so he left. Boots said he returned to the store after taking Proctor home, and called police when he found the body.

The case against the men was mostly circumstantial, although prosecutors pointed to what they said was microscopic residue of gunpowder and blood on Proctor's shirt. Their lawsuit alleged that the crime lab test results were wrong, either through negligence or on purpose.

In 1994, an unnamed informant said Ricky Kuppens had killed Oliver. Police found the weapon used, matched Kuppens' fingerprint to one found on the tape and got Kuppens to admit the killing. Kuppens committed suicide the day
before police planned to arrest him.

In making the settlement Thursday, the city admitted no wrongdoing.

Proctor and Boots said they are not bitter toward the system but believe there are flawed individuals in it.

``I don't think anyone has taken the right kind of responsibility for this,'' said Proctor, adding there is nowhere to turn when a wrongly convicted person is freed. ``I got no help. My mother was it.''

Both men got associate degrees from community college while in prison.

Proctor said he plans to use his share of the settlement for living expenses and possibly to go to college. He said he is interested in computers and math courses.  Boots said he may get his bachelor's degree -- he is just three hours short of it -- and plans to leave Oregon due to the stigma of the case.

``There's still a lot of healing yet to do. Every night I said a prayer hoping that this thing would be over,'' said Claudia Page, Boots' mother.

She said a friend told her at one point that ``These are little punk kids. Get over it. They did it.''


 
 
 
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