Massachusetts Compensation Law Leaves Exonerees in the Lurch

12.12.16 By Innocence Staff

Massachusetts Compensation Law Leaves Exonerees in the Lurch

The Boston Globe featured the story of Kevin O’Loughlin, who is fighting for compensation after being cleared of a 1985 rape conviction last year, to illustrate the shortcomings of Massachusetts’ wrongful conviction compensation statute.

O’Loughlin was only 20 years old when he was wrongfully convicted of the rape of an 11-year-old girl in Framingham. He spent almost four years in prison and was repeatedly assaulted by his fellow inmates during his sentence.

In 2012 police discovered evidence that a man with a similar appearance committed many similar rapes in the area before and after the one for which O’Loughlin was convicted. When interviewed, the alternate perpetrator said he was “99 percent sure” he was responsible for the crime. O’Loughlin was granted a new trial and the charges against him were dropped.

The Massachusetts wrongful conviction compensation law requires that the plaintiff prove his or her innocence using “clear and convincing evidence.” O’Loughlin was denied compensation on these grounds. He is now suing the Framingham Police Department for their role in his wrongful conviction.

Innocence Project State Policy Advocate Amol Sinha told the Globe that, by holding the standard of proof impossibly high, Massachusetts’ compensation law might be preventing innocent people from being compensated for their years of wrongful incarceration.

Senator Pat Jehlen, who sponsored the law, told the Globe she might seek changes due to increased complaints.

“There is a saying, justice delayed is justice denied,’’ Jehlen told the Globe. “I feel pretty strongly we owe them — people wrongfully or erroneously incarcerated. It’s a moral debt.”

Read the Boston Globe article here.

Related: New York Times Op-ed Calls for Wrongful Conviction Compensation Reform



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