Imagine spending over 17 years in prison for a crime you did not commit. All of the missed birthdays, holidays, and time with your friends and family while sitting in a cell after being wrongfully convicted of murder. This is what happened to five individuals in the Bronx who had their convictions vacated by the court and now look to receive $40 million thanks to a civil rights lawsuit against New York City.
According to an article in the New York Times, the four men and one woman convicted in the 1995 murders of a livery cab driver and Federal Express executive will each receive $8 million as part of a settlement with the City. The lawsuits claim the detectives on the case at the time exhibited misconduct during their investigation. With the settlement, the City maintains it does not admit any fault in what occurred, including any civil rights violations.
This position is a familiar one for New York City. In the highly publicized Central Park jogger case, where five teenagers convicted of rape had their convictions vacated due to DNA evidence, the city did not take a stance on an admission of guilt. Despite accusations that detectives coerced convictions out of the teenage boys (who spent a combined 40+ years in prison), attorneys for the city emphasized that the $41 million settlement to the five men was not an admission of any misconduct on behalf of the detectives.
One of the men in that case, Raymond Santana, recently joined members of The City Council to try and reduce the number of wrongful convictions in New York. They are asking lawmakers to implement changes to eyewitness identification and have interrogations fully recorded without interruptions. With the help of DNA evidence, the 29 overturned convictions in New York State can be attributed to eyewitnesses making an incorrect identification or the suspect making what turned out to be a false confession.
The fight against wrongful conviction goes on. Just last month a 49-year-old mentally disabled man was released after spending 25 years in prison for a 1991 murder in Brooklyn which he did not commit. He was convicted thanks in part to the eyewitness testimony of a convicted criminal. We trust the police, prosecutors and the justice system to punish those who break the law while unthinkably harming other people. Unfortunately, sometimes the system fails, and when it does you need an attorney unafraid to challenge the government officials responsible. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a wrongful conviction, contact the experienced civil rights attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., to fight for the justice you deserve.