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Long Beach, CA Wrongful Conviction Suit Settles for $8M

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By Jason Beahm on August 13, 2010 1:41 PM

How much would 24 years behind bars be worth to you? Thomas Lee Goldstein, who was wrongfully imprisoned, got his answer Thursday: $7.95 million. It is the largest California pretrial settlement ever in a wrongful conviction suit, his attorney Barry Litt said.

"We don't believe there was any wrongdoing" by city officials, said Monte Machit, who defended Long Beach in the case. "This is a lot of money, but in light of the potential verdict," which could have been $24 million to $30 million and lawyers' fees, he said, reported the New York Times, "we thought it better to get it resolved."

When a person proves a case of wrongful conviction, they are generally entitled to some form of compensation for their lost time and pain and suffering. In a recent Ohio case an exonerated man received about $47,000 for each year he was wrongly imprisoned in his wrongful conviction suit. Goldstein recovered over $330,000 per year.

Thomas Lee Goldstein sued the City of Long Beach for withholding evidence in his 1980 murder trial. Goldstein was convicted in that trial of killing a Long Beach drug dealer in 1979. He was freed in 2004 after an investigation by the Los Angeles district attorney led to the dismissal of all charges against him, the New York Times reports. According to the investigation, the only witness against Goldstein was coached by the police, who pointed out Goldstein's photo for the witness. The witness was a heroin addict and police informant named Eddy Fink. (Just the perfect name for a questionable informant isn't it?)

Goldstein said that the settlement put an end to a "painful chapter" of 30 years of his life. He plans to spend the coming years trying to rebuild his life, retire and help others.

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