Category Archives: Compensation/Exoneree compensation

Jury Awards $36M in Wrongful Conviction Suit to Two NY Men

A jury in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, New York, yesterday awarded John Restivo, 56, and Dennis Halstead, 59, $18 million each—$1 million for every year they spent in prison—following their wrongful convictions in the 1984 rape and murder of 16-year-old Theresa Fusco. All charges had been dismissed in 2003 after DNA testing of evidence, which was conducted over ten years, excluded the men and implicated another, unidentified perpetrator.

After a four-week trial in the federal civil rights lawsuit, the jury concluded that Nassau County lead detective, Joseph Volpe, now deceased, had engaged in official misconduct, including fabrication of hair evidence and withholding of exculpatory evidence in the case. Continue reading

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Knoops Innocence Project Exonerees Compensated by Government

High Court of Justice of the Dutch Antilles agrees to pay USD 1.97 million compensation to Nozai Thomas and Andy Melaan (Spelonk case)

On 11 April 2014, the High Court of Justice ofAruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and of Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba (Dutch Antilles) rendered a judgment granting compensation to two exonerees for a miscarriage of justice which took place in 2005.

In 2006, the High Court of Justice at Bonaire affirmed a conviction of the District Court in 2005 against Nozai Thomas and Andy Melaan for murdering two brothers and sentenced them to respectively 8 and 24 years imprisonment.

The wrongful conviction came to light as a result of an initiative of drs. Lucio Ricardo, a psychologist working at the Dutch Antilles, who believed in the innocence of the two men. In 2009-2010 the former Dutch police detective Mr. Gosewehr and the criminologist dr. Timmerman, concluded that the two men were wrongfully convicted. The case was subsequently submitted by them to the Knoops’ Innocence Project (director Carry Knoops-Hamburger).

The Knoops’ Innocence Project has been working pro bono on the case since 2011 and initiated new research, in order to establish a “new fact”, which is necessary to have a case reopened in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Research by the Netherlands Forensic Research Bureau [Nederlands Forensisch Onderzoeksbureau, NFOB] and Digital Investigations revealed that Thomas’ was working at his computer during the night of the murders in 2005. New research also revealed that Thomas had confessed under extreme police pressure and that his confession was most likely to be false. Telecom research furthermore revealed that Melaan could not have been at the crime scene during the night of the murders.

On 1 July 2013 the High Court of Justice ordered a new trial and on 14 November 2013 both men were officially exonerated. Mr. Thomas spent 4.5 years in prison and Mr. Melaan 8 years.

On 11 April 2014 the High Court of Justice granted the following amounts of compensation:

-        Nozai Thomas: USD 677.430

-        Andy Melaan: USD 1.292.687

The High Court of Justice multiplied the standard amount of financial compensation for wrongfully convicted persons with factor five, while taking the following aspects into consideration:

-        Knoops’ advocaten tried to obtain compensation through the Prosecutor General, which would have prevented the two men to go to court for compensation and which would have allowed them to gain swift rehabilitation;

-        The fact that the prosecution did not prove to be willing to settle the compensation claim, while the prosecution – in light of the experience the Kingdom of the Netherlands has with wrongful convictions – should have been aware of the impact on the exonerees of such a miscarriage of justice. The fact that the prosecution proved to be unwilling to settle the claim, impacted upon the exonerees who still felt that they had to proof their innocence towards society;

-        Both exonerees proved to be extremely traumatized and showed signs of PTSS;

-        The uniqueness of the case demanded a higher compensation than the standard amount.

-        Other factors that contributed to a higher amount of compensation were:

o   Extensive media coverage;

o   The fact that the accused suffered from stigmatization in the Bonairean community;

o   Impact of the wrongful conviction on the lives of Melaan and Thomas (both exonerees suffer from PTSS);

o   The young age of Melaan and Thomas during their detention;

o   Severe psychological damage, which will have a lasting impact on their lives;

o   Police pressure during the interrogations (which had resulted in a false confession by Thomas)

Importantly, the judges of the High Court of Justice granted compensation that is commensurate with the standard of living in “the Netherlands”; if they would have applied the Dutch Antilles standard, the amount would have been lower.

Andy Melaan and Nozai Thomas perceive the compensation as a form of rehabilitation and reparation for the suffering inflicted upon them. The compensation will be deposited in a fund, which will be managed by third parties and used for their – and their family and children’s – future. Melaan and Thomas are committed to helping other wrongfully convicted persons on the Dutch Antilles and beyond.

Knoops’ Innocence Project

Prof. G.G.J. Knoops
Mrs. C.J. Knoops-Hamburger (director Knoops’ Innocence Project)
Ms. M. van Woudenberg
Ms. Pascalle Dingemanse (local counsel)

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

  • Federal Public Defender in Oregon, Steven Wax, takes huge pay cut to be first legal director of Oregon Innocence Project
  • Cameron Todd Willingham, executed by Texas though innocent, will not get posthumous pardon.  Outrageous, but unfortunately consistent with what I’ve seen from the robotic parole and pardon boards around the country.
  • City of Cleveland agrees to compensate exonerated clients of Ohio Innocence Project and The Innocence Project, Thomas Siller and Walter Zimmer.
  • Ohio Innocence Project exoneree Glenn Tinney sues prosecutors for his wrongful conviction.

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

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Monday’s Quick Clicks…

  • Birmingham Six member Paddy Hill has claimed that police sent secret letters promising immunity to two of the men responsible for the 1974 pub bombings.  The miscarriage of justice campaigner, who received a life sentence for the terrorist atrocity but was released from prison and cleared after his conviction was quashed, believes two of the pub bombers were told they would not face prosecution for IRA crimes.  The 68-year-old, who now lives in Scotland, said he has been told IRA members previously admitted that five people carried out the bombings at the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town.  He said that two of the five have since died, two were promised immunity – but a fifth bomber has not received any assurances that he could escape prosecution.  Nobody has ever been brought to justice for the mass murder of 21 innocent people on the streets of Birmingham on November 21, 1974, which left 182 injured. Full article here
  • Nebraska exoneree Troy Hess has compensation claim rejected by Nebraska Supreme Court
  • In Canada, a judge has allowed former Vancouver real estate developer Tarsem Singh Gill to withdraw his guilty pleas in connection with a $40-million mortgage fraud.  In a ruling Friday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Terry Schultes said that the possibility of a “miscarriage of justice” loomed large if he denied Gill’s application to withdraw his pleas to two counts of fraud.  Full story here….
  • Exoneree Edgar Coker discusses life on the sex offender registry.
  • Article about the Uriah Courtney exoneration in California

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

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Monday’s Quick Clicks…

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  • Exoneree Lana Canan sues Elkhart, Indiana police
  • A man convicted of rape nearly four decades ago should be allowed to seek new DNA testing, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday, upholding an earlier Nebraska Court of Appeals ruling.  Juneal Pratt, 58, is serving 32 to 90 years for the rape, sexual assault and robbery of two Iowa sisters at an Omaha motel in 1975.  He was 19 when he was arrested days after the August 1975 assaults on suspicion of purse-snatching at the same hotel, then quickly charged with the rapes. Several witnesses said Pratt was at home at the time of the attacks, but Pratt was convicted just two months later after the sisters picked him out of a police lineup — a practice that’s increasingly under fire.  Full article here….
  • A man who was wrongly convicted of a 2006 shooting in Oakland has filed a $32 million federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, alleging that he was maliciously prosecuted.  The lawsuit by Ronald Ross, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, accuses Oakland police of conducting a faulty photo lineup that ended with his being improperly identified by the shooting victim, Renardo Williams, as the shooter. Ross spent nearly seven years behind bars before being released last February.  Full article here…

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

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  • New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman plans to unveil legislation Wednesday that would make it easier for people wrongfully convicted of crimes to recover damages from the state.  Schneiderman’s Unjust Imprisonment Act would strip away restrictions in state law that block claims from people who were coerced into false confessions or who pleaded guilty to crimes they did not commit.  Full article here.
  • Pennsylvania Innocence Project hiring an investigator
  • Another chance for the U.S. Supreme Court to say no to prosecutorial misconduct
  • Missouri considers eyewitness id and videotaped interrogations reform
  • Opening of sealed records in Orange County, CA shows improper use of informants

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

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  • In Florida, bill to compensate death row exoneree James Joseph Richardson passes first test in the Senate
  • Despite request of Senators from both parties, Obama Administration says it is unlikely to posthumously pardon heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson for racially motivated conviction
  • During the full-day workshop held Monday, February 17, 2014 at the 66th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) in Seattle, Washington, Andrew Sulner, Barry Scheck, and other distinguished experts will provide attendees with concrete examples and a clear picture of how cognitive and motivational bias can affect the outcome of forensic investigations and lead to miscarriages of justice in both criminal and civil cases, and how lawyers can exclude or impeach expert testimony that may have been tainted by bias.  More here….
  • Edgar Coker Jr. exonerated by U of Virginia clinic
  • Exoneree Ryan Ferguson talks about adjusting to normal life

UK Parliamentary debate on definition of a ‘miscarriage of justice’

There have been recent moves by the government in the UK, to severely restrict access to compensation for victims of miscarriages of justice. There has rightly, been (muted) outrage about the proposed requirement that the person claiming compensation had to prove their ‘innocence’ to be eligible for compensation. (see post here…)

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“A statutory definition was first attempted by the government as part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which originally stated a miscarriage of justice has occurred if new evidence must “show beyond reasonable doubt that the person was innocent of the offence”. When the bill progressed to the House of Lords, peers voted to defeat the government and change the wording so that the new evidence “shows conclusively that the evidence against the person at trial is so undermined that no conviction could possibly be based on it”.

The debate on the amendment and the definition of a ‘miscarriage of justice’ is available here….  For those of us involved in miscarriages of justice in the UK, this is essential viewing – and those interested in how authorities approach these issues. It is a long debate, but very very interesting! There has been limited reporting so far of the debate – but you can see one article here…

Wrongly jailed in UK may not get redress

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

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  • The unintended consequences of compensating the exonerated
  • Canada’s system for reviewing alleged wrongful convictions “failing miserably”
  • West Virginia University Law Innocence Project pushes interrogation recording bill
  •  What does a record number of U.S. exonerations in 2013 tell us?
  • ESPN video on the wrongful accusation against Richard Jewel for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing
  • Ex-cop exonerated after 20 years in prison awarded $9 million
  • Mexican lawyers turned filmmakers win civil suit against them brought by family of victim in wrongful conviction case they exposed through the documentary Presumed Guilty
  • Planned changes in UK’s compensation laws for exonerees will make it nearly impossible to obtain compensation after wrongful conviction
  • New Zealand Innocence Project re-ignites debate about the need for a wrongful convictions commission
  • Idaho Innocence Project client Sarah Pearce may soon be released—settlement discussions ongoing

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

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Monday’s Quick Clicks…

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Friday’s Quick Clicks…

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