Lawyers e-Journal

Thursday, Jul. 26, 2007
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Federal judge orders government to pay more than $100M to wrongfully imprisoned men

The Associated Press reported earlier today that U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner ordered the government to pay $101.7 million to four men and their families who spent many years in prison for a 1965 murder that they did not commit.

Government lawyers had argued that the FBI was not liable for the four men’s wrongful imprisonment because the agency was not required to share documents and information with state prosecutors or defense lawyers.

“The FBI's misconduct was clearly the sole cause of this conviction," Gertner remarked. “The government's position is, in a word, absurd. She continued, “No lost liberty is dispensable. We have fought wars over this principle. We are still fighting these wars.”

Randy Chapman, a former chair of the MBA Criminal Law Section Council and current president of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, agreed with Gertner’s ruling.

“The original actions of the government which resulted in these wrongful conditions were inexcusable, and offensive to the fundamental principles of our Constitution," said Chapman. "The prosecutorial misconduct was compounded by the complete indifference to the harm caused to these men and their families once the injustice was uncovered.” 

He continued, “It is incomprehensible that the Justice Department did not make any good faith efforts to resolve this matter through settlement prior to trial. Hopefully, the judgment will be satisfied quickly and not be delayed by meritless appeals, and attempts to minimize the horrific consequences of the government's misdeeds.”


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