Wrongfully Imprisoned Cleveland Man to Receive $600,000 from State
A wrongfully imprisoned Cleveland man should receive more than $600,000 from the state for the time he was incarcerated and for lost wages, according to a November 27 decision of the Court of Claims of Ohio. The Court of Claims found by a preponderance of the evidence that Darrell Houston proved he was entitled to the compensation.
As outlined in state law, proving wrongful imprisonment also entitles an individual to receive compensation for court costs, attorney fees, and expenses associated with his appeals. The court awarded Houston more than $118,000 for these other expenses.
Houston already received $264,736.99 of a preliminary judgment from the court representing a portion of the mandated judgment total for the time he spent behind bars.
The State Controlling Board must approve final release of the awarded funds.
During a four-day trial in September, attorneys argued whether Houston should be compensated for the entire 16 years he was incarcerated or just a portion of it. Their arguments centered on a concurrent sentence Houston served for a valid conviction for a crime he committed two months before the crime for which he was wrongfully imprisoned.
Retired Belmont County Common Pleas Court Judge Jennifer L. Sargus heard the case.
In her decision, Judge Sargus notes that “it is settled law that a wrongfully imprisoned individual cannot receive compensation for time served on a valid sentence.”
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.
“Based upon R.C. 2929.14(C)(1)(a), Houston’s criminal record, and his record of incarceration, this court finds Houston served 4 1/2 years on the weapon under disability case arising in July 1991,” Judge Sargus wrote. “All other time is compensable time. Houston served a total of 5,773 days. He is entitled to 5,773 days minus 1,642 days (4,131 days) at a rate of $137.93 per day or $569,788.83 as statutory damage for wrongful incarceration.”
Attorneys for the state and Houston also argued over whether he was entitled to lost wages.
Judge Sargus addressed this issue too, calling Houston “hard working and determined” and that he “demonstrated an ongoing commitment to work” while acknowledging he didn’t have an “unbroken record of employment.”
“Taking into consideration the entire record, preponderant evidence establishes Houston would have earned $295,000 during the period of his wrongful incarceration.”
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.
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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