|The wrongly convicted
further injustices when they are exonerated. Unlike parolees,
they are entitled to no social
services, no job training and placement, no counseling to help them
to living in a dramatically different society than the one they left
earlier. In many instances, family and friends who supported them
died. Few states offer any financial compensation for their
and employers are wary of hiring them.
HOW THE EXONERATED ARE TREATED
These news reports illustrate the reception society gives innocent people when they are finally released, and underscore the need for resettlement programs.
Wisconsin Law Journal takes a look at life after exoneration in that state:
Putting Broken Lives Back Together
After the Door Opens
By now, you would have to be living in a cave to have not heard of Steven Avery, an exoneree who is the subject of the landmark Netflix series, "Making A Murderer." The series shows how Mr. Avery was set up by the Manitowoc County, WI Sheriff and District Attorney for a rape they almost certainly knew he did not commit. Then, after Mr. Avery was exonerated and released, the series goes on to show how he was again targeted for a crime he is unlikely to have committed, because he had been wrongfully convicted before and was suing the people who framed him the first time around. This is not unusual. Leslie Vass spent 10 years in prison for a robbery he did not commit, and was freed in 1987. Even though Maryland paid him compensation, the state did not expunge his record. In 2004, he was arrested in a stabbing in which he had no involvement, and was locked up pre-trial for one year, then acquitted.
Los Angeles Times columnist Dana Parsons first jumped on Arthur Carmona's wrongful conviction for armed robbery in 1998. Other journalists soon joined him. "The kid is innocent!" they proclaimed, a cry that ultimately led to Arthur's release from prison -- exoneration remained out of reach as Orange County, CA District Attorney Tony Rackauckas continued to insist that Carmona was guilty. And now, just as things were looking up in Arthur's life, comes the news: The Kid is Dead.
Rocky Mountain Innocence Center President Jensie Anderson and Executive Director Katie Monroe have been working Capitol Hill to push legislation that would compensate exonerated convicts for their time spent behind bars and provide an avenue for an inmate to be declared innocent without DNA evidence. A big selling point for lawmakers: a chart showing how much money states without similar legislation had to pay to exonerated convicts who then filed lawsuits - amounts ranging from $300,000 to $15 million. The center argues its proposal to provide $40,000 for each year spent behind bars with an extra $30,000 a year for death-row inmates could save the state money. Exoneration and Assistance Bill
from a list of DNA-exonerated prisoners provided by the Cardozo
Innocence Project, the New York Times
conducted the most extensive review to date on what happened to them
after they were released. A Long Road Back
2002, Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath admitted the
state had imprisoned an innocent man, Jimmy Bromgard, who was cleared
by DNA of the rape of an 8-year-old girl in her Billings, MT
home. Now that Jimmy has sued the state and Yellowstone County
for his wrongful conviction, the state AG and the local prosecutor are
desperately trying to find some way to show he might be guilty after
still a matter of winning at all costs.
Williams was just a high-school sophomore when he was tried as
an adult for the rape of his 22-year-old tutor. The woman's head was
covered during the attack, but she testified that she recognized the
teenager by his voice. Despite a lack of physical evidence, Mr.
Williams was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. When
Mr. Williams was freed by DNA after 24 years in prison, he had
nowhere to go. The Innocence Project
tracked down several of his siblings, but after 24 years, they barely
knew him, and refused to take him. A Stranger to
Ochoa of Los Angeles, CA was 20 years old when he was identified by two
witnesses as the man who committed a carjacking and robbery. The
DA put him on trial, despite of the fact
that DNA from the carjacker's clothing had eliminated Ochoa. After
the first witness testified, the DA offered Ochoa 2 years prison for a
plea to second-degree robbery, and Judge Robert Fitzgerald told Ochoa
he would give him the max -- 16 years to life -- if he was
convicted. Ochoa took the plea deal, and served almost half
before the DNA was matched to another man convicted in a similar
carjacking/robbery. Ochoa has submitted a claim for compensation,
but the California Attorney General is opposing it, claiming his
clearly coerced guilty plea was voluntary, so he doesn't
a Chew Toy of Justice.
Wallace of Chicago, IL was a 15-year-old kid when he was picked up by
police, subjected to 'good cop/bad cop' interrogation, beaten and
forced to confess to a murder he did not commit. He spent 10
prison and was released in 2002. In 2003, Andre sued the officers
falsely arrested him. The US Supreme Court has ruled he filed way too late, that the clock on the
2-year time limit to sue for civil rights violations starts running at
the time a person is arrested,
not when he is exonerated. It's a slap in the face of the wrongly
convicted, and another 'attaboy' for the cops who beat a confession out
of a kid. 'Sorry. Have a
Sutton spent more than
four years in prison for a crime that DNA tests say he didn't commit.
The courts overturned his sentence for rape and freed him. Texas Gov.
Rick Perry gave him a full pardon in 2004. But
is still waiting for his $100,000
check from a special state fund established in 2001 to
compensate Texans who have been wrongfully imprisoned.
The reason: Sutton can't get a required letter from Houston prosecutors
admitting his mistaken conviction. Adding Insult to Injury
Dedge, an innocent man
imprisoned for 22 years, was lucky in one respect. Had he been falsely
convicted for robbery rather than rape, there would have been no DNA to
set him free. Florida
politicians are fooling only themselves if they think that the current
post-conviction DNA testing law does away with wrongful imprisonment in
the Sunshine State. The
circumstance more outrageous than the resistance to compensating Dedge
is the Legislature's pervasive indifference to the moral certainty that
there are hundreds of equally innocent people still rotting behind
Florida bars. What
the State Owes the Innocent
After nearly 7 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Jeffrey Scott Hornoff walked out of prison a free man. With the clothes on his back, a small plastic bag of personal belongings and $500, he was ready to rebuild his life. Or was he? A Normal Life
wrongly convicted long for exoneration and freedom, and when these
the backhand they get from society can be a bitter blow. Freedom No Cure-All
Only 16 states provide for the payment of reparations to innocent people convicted of crimes they did not commit and subsequently exonerated. Only New York and West Virginia have no limit. California caps reparations at $10,000, and the federal government is stingiest of all, granting a maximum of $5,000. The other 36 states provide no compensation at all. Two contrasting cases illustrate the disparity in how victims of the system are treated.
The first 110 inmates freed by DNA were all innocent. Collectively they spent over 1,000 years in prison. For many of them, vindication brought neither a happy ending nor a happy beginning. They have found No True Freedom
In New Jersey, DNA evidence cleared John Dixon of rape and freed him from prison in 2001, but he now seeks another sort of vindication. He has sued the public defender's office, alleging that for 10 years it turned a deaf ear to his requests for DNA testing. And on Feb. 6, 2004 Essex County Judge Mary Jacobson denied a motion to dismiss his suit, Dixon v. Segars, L-7598. Ineffective Assistance by Public Defenders
at 16, Josiah Sutton of Houston, TX served 4 1/2 years of a 25-year
sentence for a 1998 rape. Josiah said
innocent from the beginning. He won freedom
March 12, 2003, when a DNA test excluded him as a suspect. A second
test, ordered by the Harris County district attorney's office in June,
also excluded him.
David Dow, director of the Texas Innocence Network, is working to clear
Sutton's name in two ways: a court order to vacate the conviction and a
governor's pardon based on innocence. But Harris
Chuck Rosenthal refuses to call Sutton "innocent" in documents
needed to clear him. Still Waiting
do the Brits give someone who’s
been proved innocent after spending the best part of their life behind
bars, wrongfully convicted of a crime they didn’t commit? An
maybe? Counselling? Champagne? Compensation? Well, if you’re David
Blunkett, the Labour Home Secretary, the choice is simple: you give
them a big, fat bill for the cost of board and lodgings for the time
they spent freeloading at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in British
prisons. Ain't No Better in Britain
clear direction and assistance, exonerees must navigate an uncertain
path to restarting their lives. Redemption was
sweet, but it did not fully
make up for what was taken. hey
lost out on their youth. Their children aged. Their friends moved on.
Holidays came and went, over and over again. They're
Neil Miller says he can't even get a job at
McDonald's after 10 years behind bars. Peter Vaughn developed a
debilitating drug habit when he was freed. Ulysses Rodriguez Charles'
24-year-old daughter killed herself while he was in jail. Boston's 22 Exonerees
Goldstein emerged from the black hole of the California prison system
on a Friday afternoon in a white-and-yellow jail jumpsuit, his feet in
cheap slippers and his pockets empty, a white-haired man of 55. His
first stop was at a Veterans Administration office in Los Angeles,
hoping to get some clothes, a little money, a place to live. But the
V.A.'s computers were down and officials could find no record of Mr.
Goldstein's three years in the Marine Corps. He drove away with his
lawyer, homeless and still empty-handed. Starting
In December, 1991, Ken Berry was a newly-hired officer with the University of Chicago Police Department. But his world came crashing down when a woman with whom he had consensual sex accused him of rape. Thanks to a defense attorney later described by U.S. District Judge Robert Gettelman as "clueless" -- he never prepared for trial and failed to call witnesses who could exonerate Berry -- Ken was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison. In 1999, his habeas was granted and he was retried. It took the jury less than 2 hours to acquit Ken. He has distinguished himself as a litigation paralegal and in his pro bono (free of charge) work with the poor and elderly, but what he really wants is a pardon.
Brooks of the
California Western Innocence Project, observes, "Innocent people do
some of the hardest time. They never reconcile
themselves to why they're in prison. They feel their lives have been
taken away. We
expect them to
just start functioning in the workforce. But there's a stigma to having
been incarcerated." Wrongly Convicted Walk Away
Fighting Reinstatement: Two years after Scott Hornoff's
exoneration, the City of Warwick continues to fight Judge Rogers' order
reinstating Scott to the Warwick Police Department.
ABC News examines life after prison for the exonerated. Their
records are clear, but they continue to suffer.
No Different Down Under.
In Western Australia, Andrew Mallard spent 12 years in prison for the
murder of a woman he had never met. His exoneration was historic,
of Public Prosecutions Robert Cock QC tagged him "the prime suspect''
despite dropping the wilful murder charge. Thanks to Cock's "last
tag," Mallard is locked out of shops, and mothers steer their children
away from him.
Don't Count on Lawsuit. The lawyer for Bill Conradt, a Chicago, IL man whose illegal arrest led to more than eight years behind bars pleaded with the Supreme Court to allow his client to sue the police who arrested him. To do otherwise, lawyer Kenneth Flaxman said, the justice system would be saying, "It's just tough. You're seized for 8 1/2 years, and you can't go to state court, and you can't go to federal court." But it all depends on whether the clock starts running on the statute of limitations when the illegal arrest happens, or after you have been exonerated.
Feature Documentary Film
Truth in Justice