Friday, February 27, 2009

In an interesting contrast to the Tim Masters case, Here is the story of a California man who was awarded $1.3 million in damages by a civil jury. This man, though, was never wrongly convicted of any crime. He was only wrongly charged with murder, a charge that kept him in jail for 8 months. He was able to sue the police because from the day he was arrested, he provided an alibi, complete with cell phone records that verified he was at work at a home some distance from the crime scene when the murder happened. Somehow, though, the police took 8 months to recognize the air-tightness of the alibi.

I've written before about what a profound impact even a few days in jail can have on someone who is wrongly charged, so I have no complaint with a verdict in favor of this man. A person can lose a job just by having to wait 4 days before being able to make bail. I can only imagine the devestating effects 8 months in jail on a wrongful murder charge can have: lost job, lost home or apartment, lost car due to missed payments. One's credit could take a tremendous hit from all the missed electric, cable, and phone bills if the wrongfully incarcerated didn't have a dutiful friend or family member who could take on those responsibilities.

So I say bravo to this successful plaintiff in California. Perhaps if juries start awarding money to some of these people, police will work a little faster to charge the right guy, not just the first guy they investigate.


Erin said...

Not to mention the damage it does to one's reputation to merely be charged.

Lot's of snow today, eh? I guess I'll have to do my errands another day.

Linda Shinn said...

I agree completely.
Years ago my son was wrongly pulled over and then charged with drug possesion and use.
It was a plastic bag of laundry detergent, in his truck. He was on the way Thanksgiving Day to his girlfriend's place who wpould have vouched for him.
They didn't allow him to call anyone for five hours!!
It went to court, charges were dropped "due to lack of evidence",because it was laundry detergent, but the charge STAYED on his record, that he "had been arrested and charged with possesion and use of drugs."!!!!

S said...

Linda, I'm sorry that happened to your son. One of the biggest frustrations in my line of work is seeing how easily people are charged with crimes, with very little real thought or investigation. Too often, the police think, "let the prosecutor's office sort it out" or the prosecutor thinks, "let a jury sort it out." They act like it's just no big deal, they'll just dismiss the charges. But by the time those charges are dismissed, so much damage has been done. If only they would acknowledge that it's a big damn deal just to be charged!

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