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Wrongfully convicted man is free after 38 years in prison

People tend to believe the criminal justice system is a reliable way to punish criminals and keep society safe. Unfortunately, it does not always work out in this ideal manner. Sometimes, people go to prison for crimes they did not commit.

Take Fred Clay, for example. After spending 38 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, he is now free and receives a settlement from the government.

A wrongful conviction of murder

This story dates back to 1979. The police arrested Clay that year when he was only 16 years old. He was charged for murder as an adult. His conviction of the first-degree murder of a taxi driver was based on testimony from a man who identified Clay after being put under hypnosis by a detective.

Released after 38 years in prison

Clay spent nearly four decades in jail for this murder. Thanks to a program in Massachusetts called the Innocence Program and the Conviction Integrity Program in Suffolk district, he is free as of August 2017.

$1 million payout

Upon Clay's release, he spent the first 17 months struggling to find work and housing without any government assistance. Thanks largely to media attention, he now receives $1 million in compensation from the state. The cap for payouts for wrongfully-convicted individuals recently went up from $500,000. While $1 million may sound like a lot of money, it only comes out to $26,000 per year Clay spent imprisoned. $26,000 a year does not make up for this injustice, but it is a step in the right direction.

When the criminal justice system does not work

It is clear from this example that law enforcement officials and courts get the facts wrong sometimes. This is why clear evidence and case reassessment are crucial. Anyone who knows he or she is innocent must fight rigorously for exoneration to live a free life.

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Christopher A. Wellborn, P.A.
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Rock Hill, SC 29730

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