What Is a Wrongful Conviction in New York?
In addition to malicious prosecution, there is also another category of cases under the due process clause of the United States Constitution which also falls under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. They are generally considered fabrication cases or withholding of evidence cases. Sometimes they’re also called Brady claims or Rosario violations claims. Generally what that means is where the police are aware of information that undercuts the problem caused, they are required to disclose it. Where they don’t do so and someone is prosecuted because of incomplete information being provided or just frankly wrong information being provided, they can sue the police. The classic example of this is what’s commonly known as a Russo Claim.
That means a situation where someone has been incarcerated waiting for a trial based on criminal charges and the police had evidence that they withheld for the prosecutor attempting to undermine the validity of the charges, the detectives or police involved can be sued. One important thing to remember is that the police have a duty to affirmatively make a full and complete disclosure of evidence to the prosecutor and they can’t fabricate or manipulate evidence. A lot of times, they get caught doing so. They fudge the information to make those things like something happened which actually didn’t. When our New York City wrongful conviction lawyers can prove that, that’s when we have a fabrication or due process claim based upon withholding of favorable evidence.
The classic examples that our New York City wrongful conviction attorneys see are where someone says something at the initial scene and then the police write it up completely differently and they point the evidence at a particular person. One example of the case we recently had was where an individual was arrested for a hit and run and driving while intoxicated, but then the passenger in the vehicle identified someone else other than him to be the driver. The police didn’t write that down in any of the case reports and basically slanted and tilted all the evidence towards this particular individual. We were able to find out from the initial radio call that was being broadcasted simultaneously that it was actually another person identified and the police withheld that from the prosecutor. Another classic example is when the police withheld a video evidence on another case we have.
In another wrongful prosecution case, our attorneys were able to establish that the incident itself was captured on video and that the police misrepresented that our client was the perpetrator, when in fact the video evidence showed he couldn’t possibly have been the perpetrator due to height discrepancies. They allowed that case to go forward and our clients sat in jail during that time. Due process violations are these types of cases where there is evidence that clearly establishes or tends to establish that the person who’s been incarcerated did not commit the crime and the police affirmatively withheld that or delayed its production to other people, or they just misrepresent what video evidence shows, for example, or they misrepresent other evidence, which is clearly wrong and they do so to tilt a prosecution in favor of a particular person.
What Constitutes a Particular Wrongful Conviction?
The New York wrongful conviction statute again can have several components. First, you have to be able to show that there was a wrongful conviction. New York State has a wrongful conviction statute called “Unjust Convictions for Imprisonment”, and it’s under the article 2 section 8(b). There is also a federal component where as part of either a malicious prosecution or deprivation of due process based on fabrication or withholding of evidence, you can seek damages for a wrongful conviction if you can show that the conviction resulted from a malicious prosecution or from withholding of evidence or a fabrication of evidence against the person.
However, New York State law, under section 8(b), provides a remedy even if there was no foul play, so to speak, but the person was convicted and spent time in jail they shouldn’t have spent. The classic example of an 8(b) claim is where someone has been exonerated by DNA, for example, in a rape or a homicide, since the technology wasn’t available years ago to be able to properly analyze the DNA. After the science has been developed, a wrongful conviction attorney can exclude it for a certain person as a perpetrator of a crime. Now, New York State basically found that innocent people who have been wrongly convicted of crimes and imprisoned have been frustrated in seeking legal redress for a lot of obstacles. Our New York City attorneys who handle wrongful conviction cases, know how devastating a wrongful conviction can be and the toll, it takes on a person’s life.
The law is meant to provide an avenue of redress to seek compensation for these damages. Under 8(b), what you have been able to show is that you are convicted and imprisoned for one or more felonies or misdemeanors which you did not commit and you have to present a claim for damages against the state in the court of claims. That also has strict time limits so you have to put the attorney general’s office on notice that you’re going to file a claim. In order to present the claim for unjust conviction and imprisonment in the New York State court of claims, you have to show that you were convicted of one or more crimes, either misdemeanor or felony, and you were sentenced to a term of imprisonment and that you served part of that term or all of the term of imprisonment and that the conviction itself was reversed or overturned.
That’s an important distinction. The person can say, “Hey, I went to jail. I didn’t do anything; I should be paid”, well before that can happen, before you fall within confines of this law, this conviction itself has to be judicially determined to have been improper and that has to be overturned. You have to also be actually innocent. For example, if you had a conviction overturned based on the technicality, you don’t fall under this law and you can’t seek compensation. Basically, the conviction itself has to be reversed or vacated and it has to be established by clear and convincing evidence that you are actually innocent. Under the federal law, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, you have to be able to establish basically the elements of either a malicious prosecution case or the process violation, then you can seek damages or whatever damages resulted from the prosecution including a term of imprisonment or incarceration.
Likewise, since one of the elements of the malicious prosecution is ultimately the proceeding was evolved in your favor, you have to be able to show that the conviction was overturned or vacated. Certainly these cases kind of become substantial where people have spent years and years in jail. Our wrongful conviction attorneys in New York have sufficient experience in dealing with these types of cases. We really feel for our clients who had their lives destroyed by having been sent to prison and who didn’t do it and we try to uncover every stone and really go to the mat to get people the compensation they deserve, especially people who have done years in jail for crimes they didn’t do. It’s horrific.
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