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Central Park Jogger Settlement: $40M for 5 Wrongfully Convicted

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on June 20, 2014 1:17 PM

More than 25 years after five teenagers were wrongly accused, convicted, and imprisoned for raping a jogger in New York City's Central Park, the city has reportedly agreed to settle their civil-rights lawsuit for $40 million.

The teens -- who were between 14 and 16 at the time of the attack -- claimed that the confessions used to convict them were coerced by police. Many at the time also felt that the arrests had racial motives. The victim, a 28-year-old investment banker, was white; the juveniles were all black or Hispanic. The five were all convicted and sent to prison, serving sentences of between five and 13 years.

What led to their exoneration and the pending settlement of their long-running civil rights lawsuit?

Vacated Convictions

In 2002, the "Central Park jogger" rape convictions were vacated after an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's office found discrepancies in their confessions. The investigation was launched after convicted murderer and rapist Matias Reyes confessed that he had committed the crime. DNA evidence also tied Reyes to the rape.

By that time, however, the teens had all already served their prison sentences. They filed a $250 million lawsuit alleging violation of their civil rights and wrongful imprisonment.

Wrongful Imprisonment Lawsuits

Generally, wrongful imprisonment lawsuits seek to compensate for lost wages as well as the pain and suffering caused by having often spent years in prison. In this case, the settlement averages out to about $1 million for each of year the men spent behind bars.

A separate wrongful-imprisonment lawsuit is taking a different tactic: asserting claims of loss of consortium by family members who have suffered the loss of the love, companionship, and service of a family member wrongfully imprisoned.

The family of David Ranta, a New York man who spent two decades in prison for a murder he didn't commit, are using that tactic in their lawsuit against the city for $15 million, though it's not clear if that suit will succeed; Ranta settled his own lawsuit against the city for $6.4 million earlier this year.

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