Two Wrongful Conviction Cases Show The Differences In Compensation Exonerees Receive

April 22, 2015  |  

A Milwaukee man wrongly spent 13 years in prison for murder before DNA tests exonerated him. Now Chaunte Ott, 41, who was convicted of the murder of a teenage runaway, will receive $6.5 million from the city through a settlement agreement.

Ott was found guilty in 1996 of the 1995 murder of 16-year-old Jessica Payne, but now authorities believe Payne was actually murdered by a serial killer who died in prison.

Ott was sentenced to life in prison after two men testified they were with him when he raped Payne and killed her after trying to rob her, reports Business Insider.

DNA tests requested by the Wisconsin Innocence Project proved that Ott did not rape Payne and he was freed from prison in 2009 after the state dropped its case against him. An appeals court ordered a new trial.

Ott sued the city in 2009, claiming Milwaukee police detectives had framed him.

Later DNA linked Walter Ellis to Payne’s death. Ellis died in 2013 in prison where he was serving a life sentence for strangling seven women in Milwaukee.

While Ott finally received a major settlement for his wrongful conviction, not all these cases have this compensatory ending.

Glenn Ford spent 30 years in Louisiana’s Angola State Prison for a wrongful conviction. He was on death row for murder. When he was freed last March, he was given a state-issued debit card for $20.

“In Louisiana, exonerated former inmates like Ford are eligible for as much as $330,000 in compensation payments,” reports ABC News. Ford did petition for the money but a judge denied it, arguing that while Ford didn’t kill Rozeman, he may have known about the shooting. He was associated with the actual killer and wasn’t totally innocent. Ford denies this.

Ford, now 65, had been one of the longest-serving death row inmates in the United States after being convicted in 1984.

It was prosecutor Marty Stroud who helped but Ford away and he has now publicly apologized to Ford. Stroud wrote in a letter to the editor of the Shreveport Times “I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning. … I apologize to Glenn Ford for all the misery I have caused him and his family.”

Shroud went on to apologize to Ford in person. Ford told Stroud, “I’m sorry. I can’t forgive you.”

“Ford was put on trial and after seven days. Even though there were no eyewitnesses and no murder weapon, the jury came back with a guilty verdict and a death sentence, sending Ford to death row,” reports ABC News.

At the time, Ford’s court-appointed lawyers were inexperienced, having never even conducted a courtroom trial prior to Ford’s. And it didn’t help that Ford, an African American, had an all-white jury.

It was later revealed that the confidential informants working for law enforcement had actually claimed two other suspects were responsible for the murder that sent Ford to jail. Another confidential informant again told police that another man had confessed in 2013.

While Ford’s compensation petition was denied, he is in urgent need of the funds. Ford was recently diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, which has spread to his bones, lymph nodes and spine. He has less than a year to live

He currently survives on donations. His attorney says Ford has entered hospice care in New Orleans and has filed a federal lawsuit claiming prison officials and medical authorities knew he had cancer in 2011 but denied him treatment, reports Democracy Now.

But even with settlements like Ott’s, some argue that money can not compensate for lost years. At the very least, the money provides some comfort to men like Ford who had to do without it for so long.

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