Three men spent 18 years in prison after being convicted of raping and murdering a teenage Long Island girl in 1984. But when DNA evidence, and suggestions that a detective framed at least one of the defendants, came to light, the three were freed.
Having a wrongful conviction for a serious criminal offense overturned grants the incarcerated person the right to return to the free world. But it cannot make up for the years unjustly lost behind bars. Nothing can give you a second chance to live the past, but financial compensation may help a wrongfully convicted person go on with his or her life.
In this case, two of the men recently were awarded $18 million each by the jury in their lawsuit against Nassau County. The third defendant lost his suit, but is appealing.
During the civil suit, the former inmates’ attorney presented evidence that DNA evidence indicated that none of the defendants committed the sexual assault on the victim. Besides this, a detective working on the case planted hairs in a van belonging to one of the defendants, and hid other evidence that might have exonerated the men. Besides that, prosecutors relied on a coerced confession and questionable testimony from inmates.
The men were released from prison in 2003. The fact that more than a decade passed before this verdict may be partially explained by the fact that it was the second time their suit went to trial. They lost at the first trial, but the judge granted a retrial, based on prejudicial instructions she gave to the jury.
Source: The New York Times, “2 Men Get $18 Million Each in Wrongful Conviction Case,” Joseph Berger, April 18, 2014