Governor Signs Bill To Properly Compensate Exonerated Individuals

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Maurice Caldwell Being Introduced by David Greenwald at 2011 Event
Maurice Caldwell Being Introduced by David Greenwald at 2011 Event

In November of 2011, Maurice Caldwell spoke before the first Vanguard Court Watch justice event on Wrongful Convictions. Just over six months previously, the then 43-year-old Maurice Caldwell walked out of the San Francisco Jail a free man, for the first time since his conviction for second-degree murder in a fatal shooting of an individual named Judy Acosta at the Alemany Public Housing Project on June 30, 1990.

The DA knew of one of the actual shooters, Marritte Funches, at the time of trial.  Mr. Funches was never investigated, never looked for, and never spoken with. Three months after the murder, Mr. Funches fled to Nevada, where he shot and killed a cab driver.  Mr. Funches is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole in Nevada for that homicide.

A jury found Mr. Caldwell guilty of second degree murder, attempted murder, felony discharge of a firearm into an occupied vehicle, and the related enhancements.

He received a sentence of 27 years to life.  While that conviction was affirmed, he never gave up.  He wrote letters to the San Francisco Public Defender’s office and to the Northern California Innocence Project, and both entities began to investigate his case. In 2008, Marritte Funches confessed to the murder and swore that Mr. Caldwell was not involved.

Lawyers, students and investigators began probing his case and located two witnesses who actually saw the murder and said Mr. Caldwell was not involved in any way, and located the real killer who confessed that he committed the murder. All three say that Caldwell was not involved in any way.

Armed with new evidence and the confession of the real killer, NCIP brought Mr. Caldwell’s case back to the courts.

A judge ruled that Caldwell’s trial attorney was ineffective for failing to adequately investigate his case.

It would take three more years before Maurice Caldwell walked out of jail on March 28, 2011, a free man after serving 20 years for a crime that he did not commit.

Caldwell-slide

But, as we saw yesterday with Glenn Ford, the story never ends with release. Unlike Mr. Ford, Maurice Caldwell has some hope.

On October 1, Governor Brown signed into law Senate Bill 635, authored by Senator Jim Nielsen, co-authored by Senator Mark Leno, and sponsored by the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP). Senate Bill 635 increases exoneree compensation from $100 to $140 for each day the exoneree spent wrongly incarcerated.

In a press release from the Northern California Innocence Project, which helped to free Mr. Caldwell in 2011, the passage of this law is welcome news for exonerated people like Mr. Caldwell.

Catch our discussion on Wrongful Convictions on November 15 - click on the photo to purchase your tickets
Catch our discussion on Wrongful Convictions on November 15 – click on the photo to purchase your tickets

“When exonerees get out of prison, we need places to live, clothes, therapy and a chance to go to school to learn the skills we missed out on. No amount of money can make up for what we went through but this bill provides meaningful compensation that will really help,” Maurice Caldwell said.

The current compensation rate for exonerees in California was set 15 years ago. Senate Bill 635 brings compensation rates up to meet current standards of living and to better help wrongly convicted individuals like Caldwell rebuild their lives upon release from prison.

“NCIP was honored to work on Senate Bill 635 with Senators Nielsen and Leno and delighted that the Governor signed it,” said NCIP Policy Director Lucy Salcido Carter. “The bill acknowledges the harm exonerees have experienced through wrongful conviction and loss of freedom and brings exoneree compensation levels up to account for inflation. We thank Senators Nielsen and Leno for their attention to this vital issue and for authoring this important bill.”

“There are many people who deserve to spend the rest of their lives behind bars because of their vicious crimes,” said Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber).

“In cases where an innocent person has been wrongly accused and incarcerated, we as a society have the responsibility and moral obligation to acknowledge that our system is not perfect, and they deserve compensation to get their lives back in order,” Senator Jim Nielsen said.

Senator Mark Leno acknowledged, “The wrongfully incarcerated can never get back the time spent in prison that separated them from their loved ones and cut off other opportunities and life experiences,” but noted that Senate Bill 635 “provides increased compensation to help them rebuild some of what was lost.”

Maurice Caldwell still awaits compensation for his time spent wrongly incarcerated.

Mr. Caldwell applied for compensation to the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board in 2013. His claim is still pending.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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4 thoughts on “Governor Signs Bill To Properly Compensate Exonerated Individuals”

  1. zaqzaq

    David,

     

    “A judge ruled that Caldwell’s trial attorney was ineffective for failing to adequately investigate his case.”  

    Did the court refer the trial attorney to the state bar for discipline for failing to adequately investigate the case?  That implies that the defense attorney was just going through the motions.  You complain about prosecutors.  Why aren’t you advocating for discipline for the trial attorney?  Was the trial attorney a public defender?  Are more cases overturned on appeal for ineffective assistance of the defense attorney than for prosecutorial misconduct?  Which is claimed more often by defendants when they appeal their cases.  As a society what concerns should we have when defense attorneys fail to do their job?  You recently published Adachi’s propaganda piece on public defenders.  Why do you never look or comment on the failures of the defense attorneys.   I find that troubling.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I don’t know enough about what the trial attorney did or did not do to really address this. I would say that a huge problem is inadequate resources. In yesterday’s article on Glenn Ford, a capital murder case was defended by a person who had no criminal experience. Ineffective legal counsel is a huge problem – placing the blame however is more complicated with issues like case loads and resources. I’ve seen reports where attorneys have 1000 cases, how can they adequately defend their clients under that load? They don’t have a choice btw. So I tend to believe that a lot of these problems are systemic.

  2. Davis Progressive

    zaqzaq – i wonder how much you’ve actually looked into this issue.  the issues involving prosecutorial misconduct are very different from problems involving ineffective defense.

    for example, the national standard limits felony cases to 150 cases per year, however, many have 500, 600, and more.  there are locations where over 1000 cases are common.  the new york times found some with 1600.  how do you effectively represent anyone with that kind of case load?

    so you want to blame the defense attorney for that?  they don’t have a choice in who they are assigned to represent.

    funding matters.  yes, a public defender gets a salary no matter how many hours they work.  but to do a competent job you need to be able to have investigators to investigate the case and expert witnesses.  yolo county is actually in good shape here with a real budget for both, but in many places you can’t get expert witnesses or do a thorough investigation.

    so when you write: “Did the court refer the trial attorney to the state bar for discipline for failing to adequately investigate the case?”  i don’t think you know what the hell you’re talking about.  the attorney was probably a public defender, whose office lacked the resources to investigate the case.  that’s not on the attorney.

  3. tj

    DP,  I would disagree a bit.  When public defenders are overwhelmed with too many cases to do a good job, and/or lack the necessary resources to do a good job, they should speak up loud and clear and demand change, let the public know, let the court know, let the defendant know.  It’s on the attorney to advocate for change until change happens.

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