Everyone in prison claims to be innocent. This is an old saying, and it is true for the most part. Sadly, as technology grows we are finding out, that thousands of convicted prisoners are in fact, innocent. One study shows that as many as 10,000 people are wrongly convicted annually. Sometimes these innocent people spend decades in prison before their convictions are overturned. They are locked away as their children grow up, their spouses move on, and their careers advance without them. Many times, they falsely confess after grueling interrogations in the hopes to get a lighter sentence or avoid conviction. These offenders are so convinced they are going to be convicted that they accept a plea bargain, hoping to receive less jail time and have an opportunity to start over after prison.
In 2015, a record number of false convictions were overturned. Many of these convictions were violent felonies, including murder. The average amount of time the wrongfully convicted people had spent in jail was 14 years, but some offenders had spent more than two or three times that. The growth of our legal system, the indisputable proof of DNA and the diligence of people who are dedicated to seeing these injustices corrected has led to the overturning of these convictions.
What is next?
With the help of a great legal team and a dedicated attorney, you can be compensated for a wrongful conviction. Of course, the only way we can recover damages in the United States is financially, and what price can we put on a wasted life? What cost is the damage that the prison system does to an innocent person, who quickly learns that life in prison, is something less than actual life? Is there enough money to compensate you for not seeing your child grow up or not being able to provide for your family and watching them suffer financially, emotionally, and physically? No, there is not.
While some states have set limits to the amount of money a person can recover from a wrongful conviction, in New York the decision is made by the Court of Claims. There are other considerations they take into account as well. The victim must show that he did not by his own conduct or actions, bring about or cause the conviction. Herein lies the problem. In the case of a young person who was pressed to give a false confession, or accept a plea bargain, the Court of Claims could reject his restitution. Your attorney will fight this action in court. They will show that there was evidence that disproved the claim, but it was ignored or that the confession was laced with “facts” that the police fed to the accused in order to make it believable. The bottom line is, your attorney is the one person who can take this injustice and make the system compensate you. Without an attorney, you are still at the mercy of the same legal system that victimized you in the first place.