Wrongful convictions are not just a product of Hollywood screenplays. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, there have been around 2,000 exonerations for individuals wrongfully convicted of state and/or federal crimes since 1989. In the past year alone, there were 166 exonerations nationwide.
Innovations in DNA testing have played a key role in clearing these individuals. Yet as a law firm that has helped many victims of police misconduct, we question whether overly aggressive prosecutorial and police enforcement tactics played a role.
We have seen instances where individuals have suffered from excessive force, warrantless searches and/or seizures, false arrests, and coerced confessions. Our clients depend on us to stand up for their constitutional right to due process and a fair criminal trial. If evidence was obtained unlawfully, perhaps due to police misconduct, a court may deem it inadmissible, possibly rendering the prosecution unable to meet its burden of proving guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In other situations, we may need to investigate the arrest record and trial proceeding to determine if an individual received a fair outcome. If DNA evidence is able to exonerate a wrongfully accused individual, we may be able to obtain compensation. However, the process is not necessarily automatic.
Pursuant to a 2004 federal law, called the Justice for All Act, individuals exonerated of a federal crime may qualify for $50,000 for every year of their incarceration. The amount doubles if the individual was on death row. For state crimes, 32 states have compensation laws that offer various forms of relief. In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed a bill that pays $50,00 for each year of wrongful imprisonment for an alleged state crime. The state also offers reentry services to individuals after their release.
Source: Governing, “What Do States Owe People Who Are Wrongfully Convicted?” Scott Rodd, Mar. 15, 2017