We have written many times in the past about the problem of wrongful
conviction in the United States. It happens a lot more often than most people
realize, and it happens here in Wisconsin as well as in other states.
While wrongful conviction can be the unfortunate result of well-intentioned
police and prosecutors making honest mistakes, it is not always this way. A
recent news article tells the story of a woman who was jailed for nearly two
years for a murder she could not have committed because she was already in
prison at the time. She is now seeking damages for malicious prosecution and
violation of due process.
The woman was in an Illinois correctional facility in 2007 when a man was murdered. The case went cold but was picked up again by two detectives in 2011. They approached the plaintiff about the murder and allegedly arrested her without a warrant. She was interrogated for hours, and the detectives allegedly took advantage of her “obvious cognitive disability.”
During the lengthy interrogation, according to the lawsuit, the detectives:
- Made false promises of leniency if the woman agreed to confess
- Threatened the woman
- Fed her details about the murder in order to make it appear as if she knew them
- Lied in police reports about giving the woman details of the crime
The video cameras were allegedly turned on only after 11 hours of interrogation. By this point, the complaint states, the woman gave a coerced confession, which was then used to indict her.
She spent a total of 675 days in jail while awaiting trial for a murder which she could not have committed. The case against her was not dismissed until her defense attorney learned that she was already incarcerated at the time of the murder.
If these allegations prove true, this case represents a severe violation of the woman’s constitutional rights. Moreover, it suggests that the two detectives who interrogated her are incompetent, malicious or both. Finally, even without going to trial, this case must have been an incredible waste of taxpayer resources spent on shoddy investigative work and the costs of incarcerating an innocent person.
It is very unfortunate to consider that some of the “mistakes” that lead to wrongful incarceration are not mistakes at all. Anyone who has been a victim of this kind of injustice has the right to seek full and fair compensation.
Source: Courthouse News Service, “Exonerated Woman Contests 675-Day Lockup,” Jack Bouboushian, Oct. 21, 2014