Settlement approved for local men wrongfully convicted of rape

Those who have been convicted of a serious crime often experience devastating changes in their personal, social and family lives. Rape charges and sexual crimes often carry a negative stigma that can follow someone throughout his or her life. When someone believes he or she has been wrongfully convicted, the process to overturn a conviction can lead to feelings of hopelessness.

As reported by OpposingViews.com, two Clark County, Washington, men are now celebrating their freedom after their rape conviction was overturned. The two men were convicted in 1993 of the rape of a woman who was unable to provide meaningful details regarding her attackers, because she was blindfolded and tied up before she was sexually assaulted.

The lives of the two men took a dramatic turn for the better thanks, in part, to an organization called the Innocence Project Northwest. The Innocence Project Northwest, based out of the University of Washington School of Law, seeks to free innocent prisoners through the use of DNA and other types of evidence, that often were not available at the time of the original conviction. A subsequent order from a judge provided an opportunity for the evidence collected by the victim to be re-tested against the DNA of the men who were convicted of the crime. The DNA test results determined that the evidence found on the victim did not match the DNA of the two convicted men, and was, in fact, from two other men. The new evidence resulted in a dismissal of their case in 2010, and the men were released from jail.

The Opposing Views report indicates that the two men have filed a lawsuit against Clark County, arguing that the sheriff's deputy who was involved in the case violated the constitutional rights of the men when he negligently refused to pursue other potential suspects. The lawsuit details some of the emotional trauma experienced by the men as a result of their 17-year incarceration, and the wrongful conviction that led to it. "Humiliation, fear, scorn, and ridicule" were all feelings they experienced. They lost many things, including their "entire young manhood," loved ones, the ability to watch their children grow up, and "their chance for a normal life." Perhaps the most unfortunate circumstance highlighted by the suit explained that the men both lost parents and other loved ones, who "passed away without ever knowing of their vindication," or innocence.

Washington's Clark County has borrowed an interest-bearing loan from Bank of America's Preferred Funding Corporation, in the amount of $10 million, for the purpose of paying a settlement reached by the wrongfully convicted men. While the money will assist them in the process of rebuilding their lives, no amount of money can buy back the time they spent serving a jail sentence for a crime they did not commit.

The use of forensic DNA evidence in the State of Washington has only recently been utilized with confidence by the judiciary, since Washington State provided legislation favoring it in 1989. For those who have been convicted prior to the availability of DNA evidence, questions may arise about one's actual involvement in the crime. Today, while DNA evidence is often available in rape cases, and other sexual crimes, many issues can arise regarding the admissibility of the evidence.

If you have been convicted of rape, sexual assault, or a similar crime, the outcome of your case may rely on sophisticated DNA evidence, and could involve complicated evidence issues. You deserve the assistance of an attorney who can help advocate for your rights.