Two civil cases have been resolved in which wrongdoing was alleged against prosecutors for murder convictions that were later overturned on the back of prosecutorial misconduct.
Michael Hash of Virginia reached an agreement with the prosecutor and sheriff he sued in his wrongful conviction on July 1, 2014. Jabbar Collins of New York settled his case against New York State on July 10 for $3 million.
The Hash civil suit was initiated 16 months ago, soon after Hash was released from prison. In his lawsuit, Hash alleged that former Culpeper County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gary Close, Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins and others railroaded him by planting a jailhouse informant near him who would later testify at trial that Hash confessed to murder.
The terms of the resolution remain confidential. Hash and Close both gave statements following the court proceeding, with Close continuing to defend his conduct in the case. After he resigned from his job and his deputy took office, opponent Megan Frederick won District Attorney of Culpepper County in 2012 by campaigning on the Hash case.
Jailhouse informant Paul Carter was also named in the Hash lawsuit and his dismissal was termed “without prejudice,” meaning it could be raised again, whereas the case against all the other defendants was dismissed “with prejudice”.
In New York City, Jabbar Collins settled a civil suit against the State of New York for one of the largest amounts of money in the state’s history: $3 million. His attorney, Joel Rudin, said afterward that it wasn’t nearly enough to compensate for the 15 years Collins lost in prison due to prosecutorial misconduct.
Former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes recently admitted that he believes Collins is innocent of the murder charges that were won against him. A federal judge found evidence that the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office relied on false testimony and coerced witnesses to win the conviction.
Collins still has an outstanding federal lawsuit against the city, which is currently set to proceed to trial, according to The New York Times:
Mr. Collins has a suit pending against the city on civil rights claims, also filed in 2011. That suit has involved the depositions of the former Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, and some of his subordinates. Mr. Rudin recently received approval from a judge to question Louis Scarcella, a retired detective whose methods have come under question; the current district attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, is reviewing 57 of Mr. Scarcella’s cases.
Mr. Rudin said it was a strategic victory to secure the state claim before resolving the federal civil rights suit, because the state payout might have been reduced had a federal settlement already been reached. “Traditionally in settlement negotiations in wrongful-conviction cases, the city tries to exploit what it sees as the desperation of the plaintiff,” he said. “This gives Jabbar some financial security and makes him even more determined to see the city case through.”
Mr. Rudin said last month that the city and Mr. Collins had begun talking about a settlement but were far apart on a figure. A judge set an Oct. 20 trial date for the civil rights suit, while encouraging a settlement before then.