By Shahid Abdul-Karim, January 15th 2016
After serving nearly two decades behind prison walls, four men have been awarded $4.2 million each for a wrongful conviction.
Friday, the state’s Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr. found the evidence against Carlos Ashe, Sean Adams, Darcus Henry and Johnny Johnson dismissed on grounds consistent with innocence.
The city men were released from prison July 25, 2013, after a judge dismissed the charges.
The prosecution in the 1996 case had offered a key witness a reduced prison sentence on unrelated charges in exchange for his testimony against the four men. But during his testimony, witness Andre Clark said he hadn’t been offered a deal, and this information was not corrected during the trial.
Under the compensation statute, the state requires claimants to establish six criteria to qualify for compensation. Indisputable facts establish the first five criteria: that the claimants were convicted of a crime; are innocent of those crimes; were sentenced to prison; served part of the sentence; and had their convictions vacated, according to the statute.
The sixth criterion requires claimants to establish that charges were dismissed either on grounds of innocence or a ground consistent with innocence.
“There is no dispute that the claimants have clearly established the first five criteria,” said Vance in the memorandum of decision.
“All Connecticut citizens should celebrate this award and feel proud of how their state shows respect for constitutional rights and compassion for victims who suffer when those rights are violated,” said Victor Sipos, who’s representing the four men. “This a morally and legally correct outcome for Sean, Carlos, Darcus and Johnny. While money cannot repay what was taken from them, this award is a genuine effort by the State of Connecticut to both apologize and to help them recover from the wrongs done to them.”
Sipos said Connecticut lawmakers and the commissioner set a powerful example for the rest of the nation.
“The harm caused by wrongful incarceration cannot be solved simply by opening prison doors; states have a duty to correct such harm, especially when it results from the misconduct of state officials,” said Sipos.
“The commissioner’s decision sends a message that prosecutorial misconduct must not be tolerated in Connecticut, and hopefully it will help prevent similar injustice in the future.”
Connecticut NAACP State President Scot X. Esdaile said the justice system has to hold prosecutors accountable.
“They have the ability to ruin peoples lives,” said Esdaile. “They need to be brought to justice also.
Esdaile said the NAACP’s role was to keep the community informed of the case.
“We helped connect the dots and galvanized support for the young men,” said Esdaile. “They’re relieved. They’ll be trying to get their lives back and secure their families for the future.”
This article originally appeared on the January 15th edition of the New Haven Register’s website. To view it completely, click here.