Monday, September 07, 2015

State To Award $4 Million In Wrongful Incarceration Of Correction Officer

How lucky do you have to be? Man was released only when the real killer confessed!  Faulty eyewitness ID again

HARTFORD — A former New York correctional officer who was wrenched from his "middle-class American-dream" life and wrongfully imprisoned for a dozen years for a brutal 1981 double assault in Danbury has been awarded more than $4 million from the state.

The chain of events that landed him in prison in Connecticut almost could not have been worse for Lawrence J. Miller of Putnam County, N.Y., where he had lived with his wife of 17 years and his two children.

A former Brewster, N.Y., police officer, he had an exemplary record as a federal correctional guard, Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr. said in a ruling on the award released Friday.

In August 1981, a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy were savagely beaten, choked, pistol-whipped and left for dead — bound with handcuffs that were part of a bulk order by the federal correctional system.

When the crime occurred, Miller was dropping off his children at his sister's house in preparation for a trip with his wife to Atlantic City the next day. No arrest was made for nearly a year, until the two young victims saw Miller in a Bradlees department store and identified him as their attacker.

Despite his alibi defense, Miller was convicted by a jury based on the source of the handcuffs, and the identification of him by the female victim. He was sentenced to 32 years in prison.

Police found no blood evidence or fingerprints.

Nine months earlier, a Danbury man named Daniel Johnston had told a group of Danbury detectives investigating him for other crimes that the police had gotten the wrong man in the assault of the two teenagers.

A detective's tape-recording of Johnston's statement remained locked in his desk drawer for 12 years.

In the summer of 1995, Johnston, by then a convicted killer, confessed to the Danbury assaults and testified at a hearing for Miller. There, Superior Court Judge Thomas Bishop, in a 120-page ruling, ordered a new trial for Miller, saying, "He is innocent, and his innocence is so persuasive that it undermines the state's entire case."

Miller was released from prison in 1996, but the prosecution appealed Bishop's ruling. In August 1997, the state Supreme Court affirmed the ruling, marking the first time in state history that the Supreme Court endorsed an inmate's claim of innocence based on new evidence. The charges were finally dismissed in October 1997.

"He went in a 39-year-old father and came out a 51-year-old grandfather," his daughter said at the time.

Miller has recovered a little more than $1 million in damages from the city of Danbury and several Danbury police officers.
High Court Affirms Convict's Claim That He Is Innocent After Serving 12 Years For Danbury Assaults

Vance calculated an award of $5.1 million for Miller, and then subtracted the Danbury judgment, as the state's wrongful-incarceration law requires. In the ruling, Vance ticks off the life events and milestones that Miller missed with his wife and children as the years slipped by. When Miller was identified by other inmates as a former police officer, he was beaten, Vance also noted.

Attorney Richard Emanuel, who handled Miller's 1983 appeal of the conviction, worked for free for a dozen years to prove Miller's innocence. He believed all along that Johnston, who had contacted Miller's family at one point, knew who committed the crimes.

Emanuel wrote Johnston letters and tried to visit him in prison, but Johnston refused until July 1995, when he finally confessed to the Danbury assaults and agreed to testify on Miller's behalf.

Emanuel did not immediately return a voice mail message Friday.

Original report here

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