So The Innocent May Not Suffer . . .

In class, we discuss the American legal system’s doctrinal foundation of presumption of innocence, based on Blackstone’s formulation, and even deeper, its Biblical roots. A Kansas man was recently released from prison for a crime he did not commit. His brother confessed to killing his niece and then committed suicide.

Kansas has no law helping those who are released from prison.  Other states, such as Texas, would have given him $1.8 million, or $80,000 for every year lost, “not including a yearly compensation afterward.” Colorado would provide $70,000 for each year, and Alabama, $50,000 per year.

As a remedy, it is possible to sue state officials under federal law. Section 1983 of the code in part states, “Every person who … subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law.”

These cases are difficult, but not impossible, to prove. Police have “conditional immunity” from prosecution, and prosecutors have absolute immunity, where a case can go forward if there is evidence of intentional misconduct.