Unjust Conviction and Imprisonment
In 1984, New York State passed the Court of Claims Act, which found that innocent people who were wrongly convicted of crimes and subsequently imprisoned were frustrated in seeking legal redress due to a variety of substantive and technical obstacles in the law. By enacting the Court of Claims Act, also known as the Unjust Conviction and Imprisonment Act of 1984, the legislature intends that “those innocent persons who can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that they were unjustly convicted and imprisoned be able to recover damages against the state.”
In order to present a claim for unjust conviction and imprisonment and successfully recover damages from the state, a claimant must provide certain evidence under the act. First, a claimant must establish clear and convincing evidence that “he has been convicted of one or more felonies or misdemeanors against the state and subsequently sentenced to a term of imprisonment, and has served all or any part of the sentence.” Next, he must prove “he has been pardoned upon the ground of innocence of the crime or crimes for which he was sentenced and which are the grounds for the complaint.” In addition, the claim cannot be time-barred, meaning the claimant must have filed the complaint within two years after the pardon. Lastly, the claimant must demonstrate that he did not bring about his conviction by his own conduct. After the claimant has presented the evidence, “if the court finds that the claimant is entitled to a judgment, it shall award damages in such sum of money as the court determines will fairly and reasonably compensate him.”
In this case, Doe was convicted of a felony against New York State and served part of his sentence. During his 1985 trial, he was convicted of first-degree rape and the criminal use of a weapon. He was sentenced to three and one-third to 10 years in prison, and subsequently served six year and eight months in “X” Correctional Facility. In June 2010, Doe was exonerated and pardoned upon the ground of innocence in the crime for which he was sentenced. DNA testing from 2009 confirmed that Doe did not commit first-degree rape in either case, thus proving his innocence.
Currently, Doe is attempting to bring civil action against the state by participating in therapy sessions and conversing with experts to determine the possible pecuniary damages that have resulted from his wrongful conviction and imprisonment. If he files by June 21, 2012, the claim will not be time-barred. Doe also established that he did not bring about his conviction by his own conduct, as it was a result of eyewitness misidentification and a vague resemblance to a police sketch of the rapist. Therefore, Doe has established the necessary requirements of the Court of Claims Act in order to recover damages that will fairly and reasonably compensate him.
 N.Y. Ct. Cl. Act § 8-b(1) (McKinney 2007).