Fri December 14, 2012
State Considers Payments For Wrongful Imprisonment
The State Claims Board is considering whether to pay four different people a total of more than three-hundred thousand dollars. All four served time in prison for crimes they did not commit.
They were convicted of crimes ranging from soliciting a prostitute to reckless homicide. And all four had their convictions thrown out after judges later determined they had not committed the crime. But proving innocence to a court is different from convincing the state to pay compensation for wrongful imprisonment. Claims board chair assistant attorney general Steven Means told the claimants at a hearing this week they must prove their innocence by clear and convincing evidence.
"That's a different standard than what is meant to obtain a new trial," he says. "It's a different standard than a district attorney would use to bring a charge and it's certainly a different standard than a jury would use to determine guilt or innocence."
In the case of William Damon Avery DNA evidence has proven that it was not him but more likely the serial rapist Walter Ellis who raped and murdered Maryetta Griffin in 1998. But Avery's attorney Heather Donnel faced tough questioning from the claims board when she tried to convince them to pay Avery 30-thousand dollars in compensation for the six years he served in prison. Board chairman Steven Means asked about a confession Avery made to detectives that was used in his original conviction.
"Did Mr Avery acknowledge that a confession was made to the homicide?" he asks. "No, absolutely not. In fact, contrary to that,, in November I believe of 1998 he filed a notice of claim making clear that what had happened in that interrogation room was false, was fabricated."
The other three exonerees who presented their claims to the board this week faced similar tough questioning. A decision from the board is expected early in January.