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Apr. 7 2010 - 11:36 am | 159 views | 1 recommendation | 2 comments

Denied: Judge says police didn’t know ‘reckless investigation’ was unconstitutional

Drew Whitley was convicted of a Pittsburgh murder back in 1989, and was then released from prison in 2006 after DNA tests proved he did not commit the crime. Since serving 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, he has filed an appeal with Allegheny County, where he was prosecuted, to get some sort of compensation for all those years he served unnecessarily. That appeal was recently denied. The following is from the denial:

The parties did not identify any decisions issued prior to 1989 concerning whether a reckless investigation violated an accused [person's] right to a fair trial. A reasonable officer in 1989 would not have fair warning that conducting a reckless investigation was unconstitutional.”

Meanwhile, Whitley is pretty much penniless, having given up the best years of his life to an unwarranted prison term. His son grew up without him, his family aged thinking he was a murderer.

Though Pennsylvania has no standard for compensating wrongfully convicted men and women, the Innocence Project in New York recommends that states:

  • Compensate exonerated people immediately after release with a fixed sum or a range of recovery for each year of wrongful incarceration. Congress and President Bush have recommended that this amount be set at $50,000 per year of wrongful incarceration.
  • Provide immediate re-entry funds and access to job training, educational, health and legal services after an innocent person’s release.

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  1. collapse expand

    Police and prosecutors need to be held accountable for wrongful convictions. Yet state legislatures, the U.S. Congress and numerous courts have promoted immunity from damages for police and prosecutors.

    No law-abiding resident of the United States wants police and prosecutors so anxious about getting sued for “malpractice” that truly guilty criminals remain at liberty.

    Devising a reasonable system of limited immunity for police and prosecutors, rather than granting absolute immunity, is admittedly difficult. But the difficulties are worth wrestling with until an equitable resolution appears. Until then, some renegade police and prosecutors will continue using their overzealous–and sometimes unconstitutional methods. Why worry about arresting and convicting innocent individuals when those misguided actions carry no significant adverse employment consequences?

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    The Prison Dilemma is a collection of links and other stuff I stumble across while writing and reporting for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University -- an organization that investigates claims of wrongful conviction in Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institutions. If you have tips, thoughts, ideas, requests -- or if you know someone with a wrongful conviction claim -- contact me here:

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