Right now, thousands of Pennsylvanians in our prison system have been victimized by wrongful convictions as a result of discriminatory practices and a failure to complete a successful arrest and trial. However, unlike other states, Pennsylvania does not compensate those victims of a wrongful conviction, even if that means the victim sat behind bars for years or decades.
But what can those individuals who have been wrongfully convicted do? In Pennsylvania, the only course of action available to victims of wrongful convictions is to file a civil lawsuit for malicious prosecution. Kalinoski Law Offices explains.
What is a wrongful conviction?
According to the National Institute of Justice, “A conviction may be classified as wrongful for two reasons:
- The person convicted is factually innocent of the charges.
- There were procedural errors that violated the convicted person’s rights.
A wrongful conviction based on possible factual innocence can sometimes be detected using postconviction DNA testing.”
Often a wrongful conviction will be the result of:
- Eyewitness misidentification
- Unvalidated forensic science
- False confessions
- Jailhouse informant testimony
- Police and prosecutorial misconduct
- Poor defense lawyering
- Systemic racism and implicit bias
With the cards seemingly stacked against those victims of wrongful conviction, a civil rights lawsuit can sometimes bring about civil damages, or monetary awards for the wrongdoing that had occurred.
Civil Lawsuits For Malicious Prosecution
Once a victim of wrongful conviction has been exonerated, the only legal action he or she may take is to file a civil lawsuit for malicious prosecution or otherwise. However, these cases are difficult to win.
According to an analysis of The National Registry of Exonerations by professor Jeffrey Gutman of George Washington University Law School, “(In Pennsylvania) half of (exonerees) filed civil rights cases. In roughly about half of those (that filed), there was a settlement or jury verdict in their favor.”
Essentially, only a fourth of exonerees in Pennsylvania will ever receive some form of compensation for their wrongful conviction.
In these cases of malicious prosecution, it becomes increasingly difficult to prove malicious prosecution, which results in these small payouts. For a victim of wrongful conviction to prove malicious prosecution, the plaintiff must show that prosecutors acted outside their authority in bringing criminal charges, and in seeing those charges through to trial.
A critical component of malicious prosecution is that no jail time needs to be served to sue. However, this can be a lengthy and stressful process with no guarantee of success at the end. But that doesn’t mean your rights, and your lost time is not worth fighting for.
Resources for Victims of Wrongful Conviction
It is no surprise that wrongful conviction victims are disproportionately black. In one study, it was found that “African Americans are only 13% of the American population but a majority of innocent defendants wrongfully convicted of crimes and later exonerated. They constitute 47% of the 1,900 exonerations listed in the National Registry of Exonerations (as of October 2016), and the great majority of more than 1,800 additional innocent defendants who were framed and convicted of crimes in 15 large-scale police scandals and later cleared in “group exonerations.”
When it comes to the harmful implications of systemic racism, these victims need resources and deserve compensation for their suffering. But what help exists?
The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons has a list of resources available to those Pennsylvania victims of wrongful convictions, which can be found here.
But if you need legal action and quickly for your wrongful convictions case, you need Kalinoski Law Offices.
Wrongful Conviction: Kalinoski Law Offices
When you need help enforcing your civil rights, you need the help of Kalinoski Law Offices P.C. Being a victim of wrongful conviction is not just emotionally strenuous, it also leaves you in a position of failure due to lack of legally regulated assistance, poor benefits post-exoneration, and the stigma which you must carry for years to come.