Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Paying for Wrongful Convictions

Both the Denver Post and the Columbus Dispatch have stories of wrongfully convicted persons that will be paid millions by their taxpayers of their respective states. 

The Columbus, Ohio story features the story of Robert McClendon (pic, right) who spent 18 years in prison for a rape he did not commit, based on DNA analysis.  He will be getting $1.1 million dollars from the Ohio Court of Claims, based on a recently reached settlement.

Larimer County, Colorado plans topay Tim Masters (pic, left) approximately $4 million for the decade he spent behind bars for a murder he did not commit.  The Masters case is particularly striking because there was essentially no physical evidence at all to convict Masters, check this (from Miles Moffeit's Post artilce): 

"At the time, prosecutors Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair, both now Larimer County judges (!!!) used a psychological theory in the absence of any physical evidence to persuade a jury to convict Masters.  Masters, 38, spent a decade behind bars before he was released in 2008 after advanced DNA testing found no trace of Masters' genetic material as well as DNA that may point to another suspect. There has been no new arrest in the case.
Masters' attorneys discovered that the prosecutors and Detective Jim Broderick concealed evidence that would have aided Masters at his 1998 trial."

That's right Colorado, you were paying Gilmore and Blair to do what they did to Mr. Masters; you're still paying Gilmore and Blair, because they were such great "tough" public servants you elected them to Judgeships; and, now you get to pay Mr. Masters $4 million for stealing a chunk of his life.  

When will we learn?


  1. I don't hold that conviction against Gilmore and/or Blair; I do, however, hold it against Mr. Masters' defense attorney. How bad do you have to be in order for your client to be convicted of murder given the "absence of any physical evidence"?

    The adversary system: make sure to get a good lawyer.

  2. Sorry Mr. Diaz, but the adversary system can only get you so far. When the prosecution withholds exculpatory evidence, then it is blatant prosecutorial misconduct and the prosecutor that engages in this type of deception deserves to be punished, not promoted.
    Also, your adversary system comment ignores that many criminal defendants are indigent and don't have the means to pay for a "good" lawyer - they get the overworked, underpaid public defender. Even the rock stars in the PD's office miss things due to the size of their caseload.
    Finally, there is an absence of physical evidence in many criminal cases. In those cases the prosecutor attempts to establish guilt based on circumstantial evidence. And cops in their dress uniforms seem to make a better appearance and come off as more credible than defendants accused of a crime.

  3. Terrific observations, gentlemen thank you for adding your comments. Amazing isn't it? I actually think there is enough blame to go around in these cases. But I would but the blame on the original trial judges, remember the Judges control what evidence comes in or is excluded. The Judges had the ability to say that there was insufficient evidence.

    I think the "type of evidence" circumstantial versus direct or as in this case, a lack of phsyical evidence probably is slightly less salient. Here's why, you can have a solid conviction on circustantial evidence--but how can you have a solid conviction when there's is no evidence? Where the quality of the evidence is so suspect, that a jury shouldn't be allowed to play dice with the defendnat's lives?


  4. BL iagree the judges need to grow a set however in many cxases you mat have a prosecuters office that drag judges around by either raising funds to elect the ones that serve their purpose --and remind others of this in different manors. they use the press to illustrate a concerned judge as soft on crime and maybe if juries are told and we are taught of the more inquzitive role juries can have ----------------remember bert griffins instructions to the grand jury bill was very unhappy that the mere thought of resonable doubt should be taken seriously

    the pope

  5. Just a correction: nobody "elected" Blair and Gilmore to judgeships. In Colorado, judges are POLITICAL APPOINTEES OF THE GOVERNOR. There is this device called a retention election every four years, for district court judges (after their initial appointment), and the case of Blair and Gilmore is one of the few times this device has worked. Citizens threw them out on their bums in 2010, because of the information that came out about their misconduct as prosecutors in the Masters case.