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Court orders new trial on damages owed to wrongfully convicted man

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Finding a District judge improperly limited critical evidence relating to an Elkart man’s innocence during his trial for damages following his wrongful conviction, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new damages trial be held.

Christopher Parish was arrested when he was 20 years old in 1996 by Elkhart police and charged with attempted murder and armed robbery. He maintained his innocence throughout and was convicted based mainly on eyewitness testimony. Eight years after his conviction, an appeals court overturned it and ordered a new trial. He was 30 when he was released from prison. The government, after Parish rejected a plea deal to serve no additional jail time, dismissed the case.

Parish then sued the city of Elkhart and detective Steve Rezutko, who was lead investigator of the shooting, seeking damages for his wrongful conviction based on a violation of the Due Process Clause. He prevailed on the action and was awarded about $80,000 in total damages for the eight years he was wrongly imprisoned.

Parish sought a new trial, arguing the damages award was too low. Average jury awards for wrongful convictions are around $950,000 for every year of wrongful imprisonment. He also claimed the trial court erred in improperly limiting the evidence that he could introduce at trial which could show his innocence.

“A look at the evidence allowed and that withheld from the jury on the question of responsibility for the crime reveals that the deck was effectively stacked against Parish,” Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner wrote in Christopher Parish v. City of Elkhart, Indiana, et al., 11-1669. “Significant testimony as to Parish’s guilt of the crime, and particularly the testimony of eyewitnesses identifying him, was admitted whereas testimony as to his innocence, including statements by those same eyewitnesses expressing their doubts as to that identification, was excluded. The result was that the jury was deprived of significant probative evidence as to the issue of Parish’s guilt or innocence.”

The 7th Circuit affirmed the jury’s determination of liability but vacated the damages awarded. It ordered a new trial on damages and Circuit Rule 36 will apply on remand. Costs on appeal are to be taxed against the city and Rezutko.


 

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  1. Oh, the name calling was not name calling, it was merely social commentary making this point, which is on the minds of many, as an aside to the article's focus: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100111082327AAmlmMa Or, if you prefer a local angle, I give you exhibit A in that analysis of viva la difference: http://fox59.com/2015/03/16/moed-appears-on-house-floor-says-hes-not-resigning/

  2. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  3. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  4. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  5. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

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