It’s maddening to think that one unsure eyewitness, one corrupt police officer, or one piece of bad evidence could put a person in prison for decades. It’s equally outrageous that after years wasted behind bars, an innocent person is not automatically entitled to compensation for a wrongful conviction.
The New York wrongful conviction attorneys at Belluck & Fox believe in fighting for the civil rights of those who have been robbed of their freedom, years with their families due to such injustices. We will fight relentlessly for compensation for the time you have lost, as well as the extreme suffering you and your family have been put through.
We understand that no amount of money can turn back the clock, but the government agencies or officers who stole these years from you should not go unpunished. Contact the skilled civil rights attorneys at Belluck & Fox today to discuss how we will put our considerable resources to work for you in the fight for wrongful conviction compensation. Schedule a free consultation now by calling or filling out our online form.
Options for Seeking Compensation Through Wrongful Conviction Lawsuits
When you meet with the compassionate New York wrongful conviction attorneys at Belluck & Fox, we will walk you through your options for pursuing compensation after your exoneration. In New York, a person who has been wrongfully convicted can seek damages in state or federal court.
Pursuing damages through the state:
According to the Innocence Project, New York is among the 30 states that have wrongful conviction compensation statutes in place. New York laws outline specific circumstances under which a person can pursue damages. Claims for unjust conviction and imprisonment in New York must include “clear and convincing evidence” that:
- The person was convicted of one or more felonies or misdemeanors against the state, was sentenced to a term of imprisonment, and served all or any part of the sentence.
- The person has been pardoned upon the ground of innocence, or the conviction was reversed or vacated and the accusations were dismissed.
- The person did not commit any of the crimes he was convicted of, and the person did not “by his own conduct cause or bring about his conviction.”
Pursuing damages under federal law:
As part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, federal law allows a person who has been wrongfully convicted to file a civil action for deprivation of rights against those who were operating under “color of law,” such as police officers or prosecutors. This type of claim for compensation can also be used in cases where the person was wrongfully arrested but did not suffer a wrongful conviction. The common types of claims made under this law are:
- False arrest or false imprisonment
- Malicious prosecution
- Use of excessive or unreasonable force
Fighting for compensation in a wrongful conviction case requires an in-depth understanding of both state and federal law, as well as extensive resources dedicated to investigating and proving your claim. At Belluck & Fox, we know that you and your family have already been down a long and difficult road, and our knowledgeable legal team is committed to seeing you through to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation about your wrongful conviction case, and let us help you start getting your life back.
Common Causes of Wrongful Convictions
With the huge strides that have been made in DNA evidence over the past few decades, more states are seeing innocent people set free after spending a lifetime behind bars.
In its extensive work in exonerating innocent individuals through DNA evidence, the Innocence Project has noted there are several common causes of wrongful convictions, including:
Eyewitness misidentification: This is a major cause of wrongful convictions. A witness may be nudged into picking a certain suspect based on the way the suspect photos are shown, or a witness may be asked to identify the suspect at the scene of the crime while the person is in the back of a police car. In addition, witnesses may change their descriptions to match a photo of a suspect presented, or they may be hesitant to pick a suspect but be portrayed at trial as being completely certain.
Improper forensics: Not all forensic techniques have been scientifically evaluated to the extent that DNA evidence has. In fact, the Innocence Project warns that forensic techniques such as hair microscopy, bite mark comparisons, firearm tool mark analysis and shoeprint comparisons “have not been subjected to sufficient scientific evaluation.” The organization further warns that some validated forensic techniques such as serology can be evaluated improperly. In some of the most infuriating cases, authorities have fabricated forensic evidence.
False confessions or admissions: A person who is charged with a crime can be pressured into a false confession or admission due to a variety of factors, including duress, fear of violence or actual violence, coercion, intoxication, diminished capacity, mental impairment, ignorance of the law or misunderstanding of the situation, and the threat of a harsh sentence.
Incentivized informants: Some informants are paid to testify or testify in exchange for their release from prison. Others have taken the stand in multiple cases in which they allegedly overheard a confession or witnessed the crime.
Government misconduct: This may include misconduct by law enforcement officials such as coercing false confessions, lying to or misleading jurors, withholding evidence, and providing incentives to unreliable informants. Prosecutors may also be on the hook for misconduct, including withholding evidence from the defense, deliberately destroying evidence, allowing untrustworthy witnesses to testify, pressuring defense witnesses to refrain from testifying, using fraudulent forensics, and making misleading arguments.
Inadequate legal defense: Unfortunately, sometimes the very people who were supposed to be defending your rights are the people who violated them. Wrongful convictions have been blamed on defense lawyers who were found sleeping in court, drunk, incompetent, or simply overburdened. Others were found to have failed in their duty to investigate alibis and interview potential witnesses who could have made the difference in a case.
Although these are the common causes of wrongful convictions, there are some cases in which multiple causes contribute to a gross injustice. This is where having a skilled New York wrongful conviction attorney on your side is essential in determining what exactly went wrong in your case and who should be held responsible.
Contact the seasoned legal team at Belluck & Fox today to review all the details of your case and get started on your path to pursuing compensation and demanding justice.
How Common Are Wrongful Convictions?
More than 1,800 people have been exonerated in the United States since 1989, when DNA evidence led to its first exoneration, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. In New York State alone, there have been 214 exonerations over that time period, with innocent people spending more than 2,000 total years of their lives behind bars for crimes they did not commit.
The numbers are astounding, and worse yet are the personal stories of the people who have been affected by these wrongful convictions ─ tales of children growing up without their parents, stories of promising lives lost, and increasing headlines detailing the accounts of victims who have finally been freed.
What Is Being Done to Stop Wrongful Convictions in New York?
In addition to the work being conducted by the Innocence Project and other dedicated organizations, the New York State Justice Task Force was formed in 2009 to identify recurring patterns and practices that could be contributing to wrongful convictions. As the task force website explains:
“Each of these cases represents a grave failure of our criminal justice system. Wrongful convictions of the innocent not only destroy the lives of those convicted, but also allow the actual perpetrator of the crime to go unpunished. When this occurs, justice is disserved and public safety is compromised.”
Meanwhile, the Brooklyn District Attorney’ Office has formed a Conviction Review Unit, which has become a national model for identifying wrongful convictions. The unit is dedicated to reviewing questionable convictions and determining cases where the person should be exonerated.
As DNA and other evidence leads to more exonerations, there is a need for strong civil rights advocates to fight for full and fair compensation for these innocent people. Being exonerated and having your name cleared is simply not enough. You and your family deserve a chance at a better life.
If You Were Wrongfully Convicted, You Need an Attorney Who Will Fight for What’s Right
At Belluck & Fox, our New York wrongful conviction attorneys are committed to pursuing justice for you and your loved ones. Contact our office today to schedule a free and confidential case consultation to discuss how we can pursue compensation for you.
Brooklyn District Attorney’ Office Conviction Review Unit
Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute: 42 U.S. Code § 1983 – Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights
National Registry of Exonerations
New York State Consolidated Laws: Court of Claims Act: § 8-b – Claims for Unjust Conviction and Imprisonment
New York State Justice Task Force