Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Court of Claims Hears Wrongfully Imprisoned Cleveland Man’s Claim for Compensation

Image of Darrell Houston giving testimony

Darrell Houston was wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. The question now before the Court of Claims of Ohio is how much compensation he will receive.

Image of Darrell Houston giving testimony

Darrell Houston was wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. The question now before the Court of Claims of Ohio is how much compensation he will receive.

Darrell Houston v. State of Ohio, Case No. 2012-08516 WI

Attorneys argued this week in the Court of Claims of Ohio whether a wrongfully imprisoned man should be compensated for the full 5,773 days he was incarcerated or just a portion of it.

Their arguments centered on a concurrent sentence Darrell Houston served for a valid conviction for a crime he committed two months before the crime for which he was wrongfully imprisoned.

In a pretrial filing with the court, the state’s attorneys cited a 10th District Court of Appeals case from 2000, State v. Smith, as the basis that “Mr. Houston is not entitled to receive compensation for any time that he was properly imprisoned.” The state also argued that Houston would have served eight years for his valid conviction, so he cannot be compensated for his entire time behind bars. In addition, the state argued that since he was unemployed at the time of his imprisonment, Houston is not owed any “direct” lost wages.

During the three-day trial, one of Houston’s attorneys, Mark Porter, asked the court to compensate Houston for about $1.6 million in lost wages and income arising from his wrongful imprisonment.

“We ask this court to award him damages because the state of Ohio put him jail, kept him in jail, fought him every inch of the way in his appeals, and, indeed, continues to this day,” Porter said in his opening statement.

Each side called several expert witnesses to speak about Houston’s wage loss and earning capacity given that he does not have a high school diploma or GED and that he has felony convictions on his record.

On January 10, the Court of Claims awarded Darrell Houston a $380,000 preliminary judgment for the 16 years he served.

As described in a November 30, 2012 complaint for compensation, Houston was convicted by a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court jury on January 27, 1992 of one count of aggravated murder and one count of aggravated robbery with firearm specifications.

The Cuyahoga County court granted his motion on November 13, 2007 for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence and vacated all his convictions. Subsequently, the court declared Houston wrongfully imprisoned on February 12, 2012.

Mark H. Reed, clerk of the Court of Claims, said this is the first wrongful imprisonment case to be processed for half the mandated judgment total within 60 days of the individual’s release from prison since the state statute was amended in the 128th General Assembly. Houston will receive the balance of his restitution after the Court of Claims renders judgment. A decision in the case is expected in about three months. Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor assigned retired Belmont County Common Pleas Court judge Jennifer L. Sargus to hear the case.

The Houston case is also the first to be broadcast live on the web under an experimental pilot program initiated by the Court of Claims. The case can be viewed at www.ohiochannel.org.

The Court of Claims is given original jurisdiction to hear and determine all civil actions filed against the State of Ohio and its agencies.

To access information on other cases visit the Court of Claims website.

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