Is $1 Million a Year Justice for the Wrongfully Imprisoned?

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Last month, the city reached a $40 million settlement with five men wrongfully convicted in the rape of a jogger in Central Park in 1989. It equals about $1 million for every year served. So how exactly are damage awards calculated?

It turns out there is no formula, and no standard. But if you’re wrongfully convicted, there are two options to try to recover some money:

  1. An exoneree can bring a federal civil rights case, attempting to show wrongdoing on the part of police or prosecutors. These cases can result in big jury awards. 
  1. An exoneree convicted in New York can sue the state under the Court of Claims Act. A judge hears the case, and issues a written decision explaining his or her reasoning.

Either way, the exoneree is beginning an adversarial process that can take a long time, with unpredictable results.

Contrast the experiences of these three men, all released in the last decade:

Jeffrey Deskovic

Alan Newton
Martin Tankleff