Connecticut Awards $6 Million to Wrongfully Convicted Man Now Serving On Parole Board

The state of Connecticut is awarding Kenneth Ireland $6 million after he was wrongfully convicted and served 21 years in prison for the 1986 rape and murder of Barbara Pelkey, a young mother of four.

According to the New Haven Register (here), effective immediately, Ireland will receive “$2.5 million for loss of liberty and enjoyment of life; $1.5 million for loss of earnings and earning capacity; $300,000 for loss of reputation; $1.5 million for physical and mental injuries; and $200,000 for costs and expenses.”

As reported by Phil Locke on this blog (here), this is the state’s first award by the Office of the Claims Commissioner since state legislation established such compensation in 2008.

While his conviction had been affirmed by the Connecticut Supreme Court in 1991 and 1999, the Connecticut Innocence Project accepted the case in 2007 and in 2009 newer DNA technology excluded Ireland from the crime scene evidence and identified Kevin Benefield. Convicted of the crime in 2012, Benefield was sentenced to 60 years.

Ireland spent ages 18-39 in maximum-security prisons. Because of the nature of the crime, he was in constant danger and was confined primarily to his cell. At his compensation hearing, Ireland “testified that he suffered physical injuries, including losing part of a finger, trauma to his face and nose, hearing loss, a shoulder injury and respiratory problems. He suffered from extreme depression and he continues to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Ireland is not bitter. He has been recognized broadly for his extraordinary efforts to move forward with his life and be a positive force for justice and his community. Last year Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appointed Ireland to a full-time paid position on the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles.

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