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State Indemnity for Errors of Criminal Justice

By Edwin Borchard


All too frequently the public is shocked by the news that Federal or State authorities have convicted and imprisoned a person subsequently proved to have been innocent of any crime. These accidents in the administration of the criminal law happen either through an unfortunate concurrence of circumstances or perjured testimony or are the result of mistaken identity, the conviction having been obtained by zealous prosecuting attorneys on circumstantial evidence. In an earnest effort to compensate in some measure the victims of these miscarriages of justice, Congress in May 1938 enacted a law \u22to grant relief to persons erroneously convicted in courts of the United States.\u22 Under this law, any person who can prove that he was wrongfully convicted and sentenced for a crime against the United States may bring suit in the Court of Claims against the Federal Government for damages of not more than $5,000. The Federal act of May 24, 1938, limits the right of recovery to innocent persons who have been both convicted and served all or a part of their sentence. The innocence must be proved either by appeal or new trial or rehearing in which innocence is established, or by a pardon on the ground of innocence. It must also appear that the erroneously convicted person either committed none of the acts with which he was charged or that those acts constituted no crime against the United States or against any State or Territory. He must also show that he has not either intentionally or by willful misconduct or negligence, such as false, voluntary confession, contributed to bring about his arrest or conviction. On the establishment of all these conditions he may sue in the Court of Claims

Topics: perjury, wrongful conviction, circumstantial evidence, Civil Law, Civil Procedure, Civil Rights and Discrimination, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Courts, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Dispute Resolution and Arbitration, Evidence, Judges, Jurisprudence, Law, Law and Politics, Law and Society, Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Legal History, Legal Profession, Legislation, Litigation, Public Law and Legal Theory
Publisher: Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository
Year: 1941
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