$9.2 Million Awarded in Wrongful Conviction that Underscores FBI Forensic Problems

February 28, 2015 – Yesterday Washington D.C. Superior Court Judge Neal E. Kravitz ordered $9.2 million be paid by the District to Kirk L. Odom, 52, in compensation for more than 21 years of imprisonment after he was wrongfully convicted of a 1981 Capital Hill rape and burglary. The Washington Post reported (here) that “Odom is one of five D.C. men convicted of rape or murder whose charges have been vacated since 2009 because they were based on erroneous forensics and testimony by an elite unit of FBI hair experts.”

In his District-record award, the judge provided one formula for calculating compensation damages: $1,000 per day for wrongful incarceration, $250 per day for parole time and $200 for each day between his exoneration and trial. The article noted that Judge Kravitz’s opinion comes “as courts are coming to terms with how to respond to a growing number of DNA and other types of exonerations”…and “could help establish a precedent for other District cases.”

The ruling was another milestone in more than a decade of revelations regarding faulty FBI forensic testimony — particularly with hair analysis. The FBI implemented a review but was criticized for notifying only the prosecutors in cases in which problems with forensic testimony were discovered. Some inmates spent years in prison unaware that lab issues could impact their cases. A whistleblower and subsequent investigative reporting by The Washington Post contributed to a slowly evolving probe with resulting awareness more broadly of FBI lab problems and other troubling issues relating to forensic science.

Noting Mr. Odom’s “profound” suffering and abuse in prison, Judge Kravitz wrote, “Mr. Odom is only a shell of the young man he was at the time of his wrongful conviction, and only a shell of the grown man he would have become had he not been wrongly convicted and unjustly imprisoned.”

The judge referenced Odom’s horrific experience — prison rapes, contraction of HIV, depression, suicide attempts, and estrangement from his family — resulting from his wrongful conviction.

Kravitz’s ruling establishes that the District’s Unjust Imprisonment Act provides prisoners six months from exoneration — not just from their incarceration — to file suit for time spent in parole and for physical and emotional injuries, in addition to their prison time.

D.C. Attorney Genera Karl A. Racine said that his office will review the order.

Odom was represented in his exoneration claim by the Public Defender Service led by Sandra K. Levick, chief of special litigation. He was represented in his compensation suit by Peter Neufeld of the law firm of Neufeld, Scheck and Brustin.

A sampling of prior articles and editorials on this case and the FBI forensic probe can be accessed here, here, and here.
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5 responses to “$9.2 Million Awarded in Wrongful Conviction that Underscores FBI Forensic Problems

  1. Iris PendletonAllentown, PA
    http://youtu.be/wjvhN5YKPsg Please listen to my audio about the case. My bother was arrested in 1984 for crimes he knew nothing about and given a life sentence in 1984. He had recently graduated from Job Corps, came back home to live with me, got a job and engaged right after his 19th birthday. I know for a fact he’s innocent, records of the case went missing or was destroyed. Barbara Christie is public knowledge of her tactics to win cases among other negative things online. Some of the officers were corrupt from 22nd and 39th districts. Its been 31 yrs and all we want is the truth exposed, by someone looking into the case and my brothers released while he can have some time with our parents and family . He is now 50 and his life was taking through greed, prejudices, no evidence, no investigation, not picked in lineup, not the right description, chased his work alibi witness away with threats. She was with him on the bus going to Center City at the time of the crime after work. Officers and the three witnesses lied and the system failed us. They was contradicting what they had said in the preliminary vs the trial. At the time we really believed in justice prevailing and it broke our hearts when we saw for ourselves its not true in early 1984. They got a way with this too long and we want our brother. Years ago Dann Cuellar told me that if someone would look into the case they could see that things don’t add up. That’s all we’re asking is the truth to stop falling on death ears to look into it to free an innocent man. He has no children cause the system robbed him of that. So many nieces and nephews, he was robbed out of not being here. Memories to make in life that so many take for granted, like love,parents, family, kids, going places, making your own decisions and being productive in life.

  2. Reblogged this on FORENSICS in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends and commented:
    Compensation costs of wrongful convictions keep spiraling up and up. This time its in DC.

  3. Yeah. so now I just have to fire my current attorney who hasnt accomplished crap in the 10 years I have been freed, and find someone who will actually do something for me.

  4. So as far as Compensation I found out that you can be found Not Guilty, but Not INNOCENT. What is wrong with this Picture. In the case of Miss-Identification if the Police did not do their JOB, then as in the case of my son Jamal Trulove he Apparently isn’t Entitled to anything even though he has been found Not Guilty. So his Life has been Destroyed and Has NO way to Get It Together, yet Has NOBODY to be held Responsible for all the DAMAGE that has BEEN DONE to his Life. WHY is that? What is he Supposed to do NOW? Any Ideas?

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