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New Documentary Highlights Wrongful Conviction Issues in United States


A new documentary just released—Southwest of Salem: the Story of the San Antonio Four—documents the story of four wrongful convictions during a time of paranoia and homophobia in the United States twenty years ago. The documentary specifically focuses on the use of junk science in convicting these women so many years ago, when they were pulled away from their lives and families due to issues in our criminal justice system that are still very much around.

Although the story of this particular trial is riddled with nightmarish facts, unfortunately, wrongful convictions aren’t that unusual in our criminal justice system. According to a recent study, approximately 10,000 people are wrongfully convicted of serious crimes in the U.S. each year.

Exoneration and Compensation for Victims

Some states have gone so far as to pass laws that allow wrongfully convicted defendants to challenge their convictions when there is new scientific evidence, regardless of where their appeals process is.  Federal law also provides that there be compensation for the wrongfully convicted, and even Florida has a law allowing anyone who was wrongfully convicted to receive $50,000 for each year they were imprisoned (up to a maximum of $2 million), in addition to free college tuition. In Florida, for example, one man was awarded $1.7 million after spending 35 years in prison for a rape conviction that he was cleared of following DNA testing.

However, there is a clause which prevents the state from providing any compensation if the wrongfully convicted has prior felony convictions, and most people who are released from prison after a wrongful conviction have a very difficult time getting the compensation they are due from the state and getting back on their feet again.

Exonerees also have the option of filing a civil suit against the city, state, or authorities that were involved in their wrongful conviction. That may be an option the San Antonio Four pursue, as you must first be exonerated in order to be compensated by the state for being unjustly imprisoned, and yet for these four wrongfully convicted women, the district attorney’s office has not yet supported a finding that the woman are, in fact innocent; just that they are entitled to new trials.

Boca Raton Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you have been accused or convicted of a crime, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Lavalle, Brown & Ronan, P.A. provide a strong defense against criminal charges and work to get the best result possible, from a dismissal of charges or not guilty verdict to favorable plea bargains, probation and alternative sentencing options. Contacting one of our attorneys as soon as possible will help to preserve and protect your rights and position you for the best possible outcome. If you or a loved one has been arrested in Boca Raton or a surrounding area, contact our office for immediate assistance.


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