Civil Liability for Wrongful Capital Punishment Conviction
Spend a little time on the Innocence Project website and you will read story after story of people who were exonerated from prison after being wrongfully convicted, and some who spent years or decades in jail trying to establish their innocence.
Some die before they can establish their innocence. An average of 46 people are executed each year by capital punishment. The death penalty remains controversial, carrying the inherent risk of executing the wrong person. It is indisputable that mistakes have been made over the years.
Since 1973, 156 individuals on death row have been found innocent and exonerated. Many of the individuals who have been exonerated have become strong advocates against the death penalty.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the most common causes of wrongful conviction in the death-row exonerations between 2007 and April 2017 were:
- Official misconduct (28 cases, 82.4%)
- Perjury or false accusation (26 cases, 76.5%)
- False or misleading forensic evidence (11 cases, 32.4%)
- Inadequate legal defense (8 cases, 23.5%)
- False or fabricated confession (6 cases, 17.6%)
- Mistaken eyewitness identification (4 cases, 11.8%).
Is it possible to be paid in a civil suit for a wrongful conviction?
It is possible to recover money in a civil lawsuit or settlement for wrongful conviction. We’ve seen this happen many times over the years:
- Steven Barnes of New York served 20 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. On November 25, 2008, DNA testing obtained by the Innocence Project proved his innocence and he walked out of the Utica, NY courthouse a free man. In 2011, Barnes received a settlement for $3.5 million from the state for his wrongful conviction.
- Herman Atkins of California was wrongly charged, and wrongly convicted of robbery and rape. He was sentenced to forty-five years in prison and served twelve years before he was exonerated. He won a civil suit against Riverside County, California, and was awarded $2 million.
- Kenneth Adams was wrongly convicted of rape and double homicide, and sentenced to 75 years in prison. He served 18 years before DNA testing exonerated him. He later received $8 million in a settlement.
Protecting Your Legal Rights In Challenging Times
If a loved one was wrongfully convicted and/or wrongfully executed, contact a seasoned attorney today to discuss your rights. These are unique and complex cases that require an experienced advocate, as there is a high burden of proof to demonstrate the innocence of an individual and overturn a conviction.
Merely casting doubt is not sufficient, and procedural hurdles to get a court to consider evidence may be extremely challenging. It may be necessary to not just prove innocence, but also prove the guilt of a new perpetrator. If you do succeed, you may be entitled to compensation not just for the wrongful death but also for the wrongful conviction.
If you’d like to learn more about your rights in a wrongful execution claim, please reach out to us. We are happy to answer your questions, review your case, and explain your legal options and rights.