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Wrongful imprisonment in Washington

Although infrequent, people are sometimes wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. According to new Washington legislation, the state will pay anyone who is wrongfully imprisoned after a conviction $50,000 for each year they spend in custody. This is because several people have faced wrongful criminal charges.

A 31-year-old man was convicted of robbery, in part because of the testimony of two co-defendants who received reduced sentences for their testimony. Although the accused man said he was in California at the time of the robbery, the prosecution couldn't find his records, and he received a prison sentence of 17 years. However, an advocacy later located the records that proved he was out of state when the robbery was committed. He was freed after serving four years in custody.

A 22-year-old man admitted to sexually assaulting a woman after alleged lies from police and hours of interrogation by detectives. DNA samples later showed that he was innocent but only after he had spent nine years in prison.

A mentally challenged teen girl with an upbringing that included abandonment by her mom, foster care and sexual abuse admitted she sexually assaulted her sister after pressure from law enforcement. However, an advocacy group later proved that her confession was based on her own memories. They also found her attorney had not even spent two hours reviewing her case, and it was eventually dismissed after she had spent five years in prison.

A victim identified two men in a line up through their hair and skin color although she was blindfolded through the ordeal of her sexual assault. No physical evidence connected the men to the crime. After 17 years in prison, the two men were freed through DNA testing that showed that they could not have committed the crime.

If someone is falsely accused of a crime, they will need effective legal representation. A skilled criminal defense attorney could effectively challenge inaccurate or illegally obtained evidence that the prosecution used to prove the case.

Source: Seattle Weekly, "A Few of Washington's Wrongfully Convicted ", May 07, 2013

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