Wrongful Conviction Compensation with a Marital Twist

in Assault, on

North Carolina is not alone in dealing with wrongful convictions. A man in a different state who was accused of rape in 1982 was convicted of being a serial rapist and sent to prison. After he had spent 24 years behind bars, he was exonerated. DNA evidence proved he was innocent, and his conviction for sexual assault was overturned.

There have been, across the country, many instances of people who are sent to prison for crimes that they did not commit, and, as in this case, it can take decades for the truth to come out, if it comes out at all. How is this possible? For a variety of reasons. Eyewitness identification is notoriously unreliable. Sometimes law enforcement, pressured to solve a case, will arrest “the usual suspects,” accusing persons with a prior record of the latest crime. As North Carolina knows only too well, the crime lab sometimes makes mistakes with evidence.

According to the Innocence Project, 27 states have laws requiring the state to compensate individuals who are exonerated. In North Carolina, the “Compensation to Persons Erroneously Convicted of Felonies” statute calls for $50,000 (and a maximum of $750,000) for each year spent in prison, as well as job training and education tuition waivers. This man’s state has a similar program, though there does not seem to be an upper limit.

At the time of his arrest, this man was married. After his conviction and incarceration, his spouse abandoned and then divorced him. That was in 1992. Under the state’s compensation law, he could receive in excess of $4 million. Interestingly, he will not be keeping all of it.

A state court ruled recently that a portion of his compensation constitutes community property under the state’s divorce and property division laws. He has to share with his ex-wife. She is entitled to receive $114,459.50 for her half of the community property, because there was more than one victim of his false conviction.

Source: Courthouse News, “Ex-Wife Can Collect on Cleared Rape Conviction,” David Lee, Sept. 10, 2012

Our firm works with individuals who are accused of a sexual assault that, like the man in this post, they did not commit. To find out more about our Raleigh, North Carolina, practice, please visit the assault on a female page of our website.