More than a quarter billion dollars is known to have been awarded or paid in 2016 as compensation to 138 people who were wrongly convicted in the United States. The people were imprisoned for a total of 1,997 years. The people were convicted in 13 states and the District of Columbia.
With the total compensation of $263,722,084, the average was $132,042 per year of wrongful imprisonment. However, there were significant differences between compensation obtained from states, and from federal lawsuits.
The five ways people obtained a compensation award or payment in 2016:
- Federal civil rights lawsuit under 42 USC §1983.
- Federal compensation lawsuit.
- State compensation claim/lawsuit.
- State legislative compensation bill.
- State compensation annuity. (Annuity for prior compensation award.)
Table summarizing the number of people and amount for each of the five methods
|Men||Women||Years Imprisoned||Total Amt.||Yearly Avg.|
|New compensation cases|
|State compensation statutes||25||0||402||$43,094,545||$107,200|
|State legislative damage bill||2||0||40||$1,498,113||$37,453|
|Federal civil rights lawsuit||24||4||489||$196,165,000||$401,155|
|Federal compensation lawsuit||2||0||53||$17,534,527||$330,840|
|Prior compensation cases|
|State compensation annuity*||72||9||1,013||$5,429,899||$67,036|
* All annuities are by the State of Texas. The monthly amount paid is $452,491.57.
The following observations relate to new compensation cases.
The 53 men were awarded a total of $238,977,185 for 936 years of wrongful imprisonment, for an average of $255,285 per year. The four women were awarded a total of $19,315,000 for 48 years of wrongful imprisonment, for an average of $401,226 per year. The four women were each convicted of a homicide related crime.
The individual awards for each year of wrongful imprisonment covered a wide range depending on the state and county/city where the person’s conviction occurred.
The smallest state award was $2,275 per year for Frank C. Davis’ 6 years of wrongful imprisonment in Ohio for a drug conviction: a total of $13,651. The largest state award was $262,500 per year to four men for 16 years of wrongful imprisonment in Connecticut for murder: a total of $4,200,000 each.
The smallest federal court award was $20,588 per year to Alprentiss Nash for 17 years of wrongful imprisonment for murder, robbery and burglary in Chicago: a total of $350,000. The largest federal court award was $1,224,444 per year to Nathson Edgar Fields for 18 years of wrongful imprisonment for murder in Chicago: a total of $22,000,000.
Six awards were for a total of $10 million or more, and 21 awards were for $5 million or more — all in federal court. There were 19 awards of $1 million to $5 million: 7 in federal court and 12 by states.
The most awards by state, and the number of federal court or state awards in those states:
- New York: 12 (9 federal and 3 state).
- California: 6 (3 federal and 3 state).
- Nebraska: 6 (all federal).
- Ohio: 5 (all state).
- Illinois: 5 (3 federal and 2 state).
The eight successful federal court compensation cases against New York City were more than any entire state other than New York.
Homicide was the primary crime in 74% of compensation cases, and in 21% of the cases sexual assault/molestion was the primary crime:
- Homicide: 42 cases
- Sexual assault/molestation: 12 cases
- Drugs: 2 cases
- Arson: 1 case
Table of average payment for each year wrongly imprisoned by type of crime
|Homicide||Sexual Assault||Drugs||Arson||Total Avg.|
|State compensation statute||$134,108||$46,591||$2,275||$48,205||$107,200|
|State legislative damage bill||$20,856||$43,748||0||0||$37,453|
|Federal civil rights lawsuit||$397,184||$416,505||$500,000||0||$401,155|
|Federal compensation lawsuit||$330,840||0||0||0||$330,840|
The average time from an exoneration to a state compensation award was 3 years, while the average time for a successful federal lawsuit was 5-¼ years. Overall, a person was awarded compensation 4-1/3 years after being exonerated.
Three people had to wait ten or more years after their exoneration for a compensation award, with Troy D. Hopkins’ 11 year wait after his 2005 exoneration of murder in Virginia the longest.
Eleven of the 57 people falsely confessed, and one was convicted based on the false confession of a co-defendant. So 21% the compensation awards were to a person convicted as the result of a false confession.
The leading reasons for an exoneration resulting in compensation were:
- DNA evidence: 19 cases – 33% of awards.
- Prosecution concealed exculpatory evidence (Brady violation): 6 cases – 11%.
- New evidence (other than DNA): 11 cases – 19%.
- Witness recanted testimony: 8 cases – 14%.
The following are several general observations that can be gleaned from the compensation awards or payments for 2016:
- Federal civil rights lawsuits overall result in significantly higher awards than state compensation schemes.
- The odds are significantly higher that compensation will be awarded for a homicide or sexual assault related conviction, than for other types of crimes.
- The average award per year of wrongful imprisonment was almost double for a homicide related exoneration as for sexual assault.
- The compensation for men and women convicted of homicide was comparable.
- Exonerations attributable to DNA and other types of new evidence resulted in more compensation awards than exonerations based on all other types of evidence combined.
Table summarizing persons awarded wrongful conviction compensation in 2016
This table doesn’t include the 81 people in Texas paid total annuity compensation of $5,429,899 as a continuation of their compensation cases. Information about the cases in the table and the Texas annuity cases is in the Innocents Database online at, www.justicedenied.org/innocentsdatabase.htm.
|Sean Adams||4,200,000||CT||Murder & Assault|
|Carlos Ashe||4,200,000||CT||Murder & Assault|
|Phillip Bivens||5,500,000||MS||Murder & Rape|
|Ronnie Bridgeman (aka Kwame Ajamu)||1,979,100||OH||Murder|
|Francisco Carrillo Jr.||10,100,000||CA||Murder|
|Dahn Clary Jr.||552,900||TX||Child sexual assault|
|Christopher Coleman||220,000||IL||Sexual Assault, Robbery & Burglary|
|Frank C. Davis||13,651||OH||Drugs|
|James Dean||2,190,000||NE||Aiding & abetting 2nd-degree murder|
|Jack M. Dempsey||337,434||OH||Arson & Burglary|
|Bobby Ray Dixon||5,500,000||MS||Murder & Rape|
|Angel Echavarria||450,000||MA||Murder & Robbery|
|Nathson Edgar Fields||22,040,000||IL||Murder|
|Angel Gonzalez||220,000||IL||Rape & Kidnapping|
|Kathy Gonzalez||2,190,000||NE||Aiding & abetting 2nd-degree murder|
|Willie Grimes||3,250,000||NC||Rape & Kidnapping|
|Michael Ray Hansen||917,000||MN||Second-degree murder|
|Darcus Henry||4,200,000||CT||Murder & Assault|
|Tyrone Hicks||1,500,000||NY||Attempted rape & attempted sodomy|
|Michael James Holmes||2,500,000||MO||Drugs|
|Troy D. Hopkins||229,419||VA||Murder & Robbery|
|Johnnie Johnson||4,200,000||CT||Murder & Assault|
|Luther Jones Jr.||936,880||CA||Child molestation|
|Koua Fong Lee||395,000||MN||Vehicular homicide|
|William Lopez||4,200,000||NY||Murder & Robbery|
|Michael Kenneth McAlister||1,268,694||VA||Attempted rape and Abduction|
|Alprentiss Nash||350,000||IL||Murder & Rape|
|Robert E. Nelson||318,000||MO||Sexual Assault & Robbery|
|Alan Newton||12,000,000||NY||Rape, Robbery & Assault|
|Martin Nnodimele||2,000,000||NY||Murder & Robbery|
|Roger Lee Olsen||475,000||MN||Child sexual assault|
|Larry Pohlschneider||762,440||CA||Child molestation|
|Kash Delano Register||16,700,000||CA||First-degree murder & robbery|
|Larry Donnell Ruffin||5,500,000||MS||Murder & Rape|
|Debra K. Shelden||1,825,000||NE||Aiding & abetting 2nd-degree murder|
|Willie Stuckey Jr.||2,016,000||NY||Murder, Kidnapping & Robbery|
|Ada JoAnn Taylor||7,300,000||NE||Second-degree murder|
|Santae A. Tribble||13,234,527||DC||Murder & Robbery|
|Thomas Winslow||7,300,000||NE||Aiding & abetting 2nd-degree murder|
April 6, 2017
By Hans Sherrer