Wednesday, August 16, 2006

hard time, no money

when i wrote recently about the michael evans case, the jury was still out. he was wrongly convicted of the kidnapping, murder, and rape of a 9-year-old girl in 1976 and spent 27 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence. evans was seeking $57 million dollars, based on claims that the chicago police falsified evidence, coached witnesses, and otherwise worked to deny him justice.

after deliberating for slightly more than one day, the jury rejected all of his claims and evans will not receive a dime in his civil lawsuit.

as the chicago sun-times reports, jurors believed there was a miscarriage of justice, but felt their instructions were too rigid to allow a finding for the plaintiff. as one juror explained:

A juror who voted against awarding money to a man who spent 27 years in prison before DNA freed him said Wednesday he believes police officers bungled the case so badly that criminal charges should be brought against some of them.

"I know one thing: Justice was not done. The verdict went that way because the jurors' hands were tied. Our hands were tied," said juror Olaseinde Sapara. "The jury instructions were too rigid; we could not find for the plaintiffs. We knew absolutely, definitely that there was a lot of police misconduct; the handling of the case was bungled by the police. Personally, I believe a lot of coercion went on. I think a lot was falsified."

illinois has paid evans approximately $160,000, the maximum state law will allow. as chris pointed out in the comment on the last post, the variation between what compensation states will allow the wrongly convicted is staggering. the city had offered evans $2.7 million to settle, but he and his team turned it down. evans explained his feelings on the jury's decision: "it was like life and death they were holding in their hands at that moment...instead of giving life, it's like they gave death, to an innocent man...there really is no amount that could justify what happened and give me all my years back."

evans and his lawyers are planning to appeal. the outcome of the appeal will undoubtedly have implications for similar cases; four other suits have been filed by pardoned death row inmates and are pending in the chicago courts.

27 years in prison. evans spent the end of his teens, all of his twenties, all of his thirties, and into his forties in prison for a crime he did not commit. now he is expected to pick up his life and move on with only $160,000 to make up for lost time. that may be the toughest sentence of all.

**image: Poetic Justice by Peter Ehrlich

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