A stunning article in the Nashville Scene underscores the need for wrongful conviction lawyers in Tennessee. According to the article, Paul Garrett was wrongfully convicted in the death of a sex worker named Velma Tharpe. Metro Nashville Police Detectives gave false testimony implicating Garrett. Prosecutors knew the case was “weak” and could not be supported, yet defended their actions anyway. He spent over a decade in prison for a crime he did not commit.
How does wrongful conviction happen?
According to the Equal Justice Initiative:
“More than half of wrongful convictions can be traced to witnesses who lied in court or made false accusations. In 2018, a record number of exonerations involved misconduct by government officials. Other leading causes of wrongful convictions include mistaken eyewitness identifications, false or misleading forensic science, and jailhouse informants.”
Further, systemic and institutional factors can lead to wrongful conviction:
“Police, prosecutors, and judges are not held accountable for misconduct that leads to wrongful convictions, such as fabricating evidence, presenting false testimony, or refusing to consider proof of innocence. Immunity laws protect them from liability even in cases of gross misconduct. Prosecutors can’t be held liable for falsifying evidence, coercing witnesses, presenting false testimony, withholding evidence, or introducing illegally-seized evidence at trial.”
All of these factors were at play in the Paul Garrett case. Prosecutors knew that the conviction was unsupportable, yet continued to defend their own actions. Unreliable jailhouse informants gave false statements. To date, no one involved in the prosecution of Paul Garrett has been held accountable.
Can you sue if you are wrongfully imprisoned?
Whether you can sue for wrongful imprisonment will depend on the facts of your case. For example? Has your conviction been set aside? There are many ways a conviction can be set aside, including through a reversal, a pardon, an expungement, among others. But until your conviction is no longer valid, you cannot sue for wrongful imprisonment. Watch the video below for more information on this rule of law, which is known as the Heck bar, from the Supreme Court case Heck v. Humphrey.
What are examples of wrongful conviction lawsuits?
Our wrongful conviction lawyers handle different types of wrongful imprisonment lawsuits. Most commonly, we will allege Brady violations, where the prosecution failed to disclose exculpatory evidence, or evidence favorable to the accused. Other times, we will allege Giglio violations, where the prosecution knowingly utilized an unreliable witness at trial. In still other cases, the issues of coerced confessions and witness intimidation may arise. Our wrongful conviction attorneys in Tennessee will investigate the specifics of your case and develop the best theory we can for your wrongful conviction lawsuit.
How can a Tennessee wrongful conviction lawyer help?
Our Tennessee wrongful conviction lawyers may be able to help exonerees receive compensation. Depending on the facts, a federal cause of action may be available. Alternatively, the State of Tennessee has a statutory scheme for compensating wrongfully convicted persons. Under T.C.A. § 9-8-108, the Tennessee Board of Claims may provide compensation to exonerees for a maximum of $1,000,000.
If you or a loved one has been wrongfully convicted, call the Tennessee wrongful conviction lawyers at DRS Law Personal Injury Lawyers today.