Apr 06

$264 Million Awarded Or Paid In 2016 To Wrongly Convicted Persons In U.S.

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
Sub-total 53 4 984 $258,292,185 $262,423
Prior compensation cases
State compensation annuity* 72 9 1,013 $5,429,899 $67,036
Total 125 13 1,997 $263,722,084 $132,042

* 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
Total average $292,312 $147,754 $137,605 $48,205 $262,423

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.


Name Compensation State Crime
Sean Adams 4,200,000 CT Murder & Assault
LaMonte Armstrong 6,420,000 NC Murder
Carlos Ashe 4,200,000 CT Murder & Assault
Devon Ayers 8,000,000 NY Murder
Phillip Bivens 5,500,000 MS Murder & Rape
Ronnie Bridgeman (aka Kwame Ajamu) 1,979,100 OH Murder
Wiley Bridgeman 2,399,584 OH Murder/Robbery
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
Michael Cosme 8,000,000 NY Murder
Frank C. Davis 13,651 OH Drugs
Derrick Deacon 6,000,000 NY Murder
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
Eric Glisson 8,000,000 NY Murder
Angel Gonzalez 220,000 IL Rape & Kidnapping
Kathy Gonzalez 2,190,000 NE Aiding & abetting 2nd-degree murder
John Grega 1,550,000 VT 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
Ricky Jackson 2,647,056 OH 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
Bruce Lisker 7,600,000 CA Murder
Roger Logan 3,750,000 NY Murder
William Lopez 4,200,000 NY Murder & Robbery
Kevin Martin 4,300,000 DC Manslaughter
Michael Kenneth McAlister 1,268,694 VA Attempted rape and Abduction
Marco Milla 654,500 CA Murder
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
Freddie Peacock 6,200,000 NY Rape
Carlos Perez 8,000,000 NY Murder
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
Rodell Sanders 15,000,000 IL Murder
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
Cathy Watkins 8,000,000 NY Murder
Joseph White 7,300,000 NE Murder
Charles Wilhite 1,400,000 MA Murder
Thomas Winslow 7,300,000 NE Aiding & abetting 2nd-degree murder

April 6, 2017

By Hans Sherrer

Justice Denied

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