Sunday, March 8, 2015

D.C. to pay $9.2 million in wrongful conviction: At 18, a young father was wrongfully convicted of raping & robbing a woman. He was raped repeatedly in prison and contracted HIV. He remained incarcerated for 20 years even after they found and convicted the actual criminal.

A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered the District government Friday to pay a record $9.2 million in damages to Kirk L. Odom, 52, who was wrongfully imprisoned for more than 22 years in the rape and robbery of a woman in her Capitol Hill apartment in 1981.
The amount, set by Judge Neal E. Kravitz, is the second — and largest — award in a case tried before a District judge under the District’s wrongful conviction law, which was approved in 1980. It also is one of the largest non-jury awards in an exoneration case in the United States.

“Mr. Odom spent more than twenty-two years of what should have been the prime of his adult life behind bars for a crime he did not commit,” Kravitz wrote in a 37-page opinion that recounted Odom’s “profound” physical and psychological suffering over the decades that included several prison rapes, his diagnosis with HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — suicide attempts, depression and family estrangement.

“It was readily apparent to the court at trial that Mr. Odom is only a shell of the young man he was at the time of his wrongful conviction, and only a shell of the grown man he would have become had he not been wrongly convicted and unjustly imprisoned,” Kravitz wrote.

In an interview , Odom, who was 18 at the time of the crime, said he welcomed word of the award from his attorneys, but added, “They can’t pay me enough money to give me back the years that I’ve lost.”

Odom, who lives in Southeast Washington with his wife of nearly 10 years, whom he met at an HIV support group, said he is attempting to reconnect with his adult daughter, born weeks before his original trial. “I’m just kind of continuing to move on with my life. It’s hard, but we’re working on it together, which is a good thing,” he said.

Odom’s case is among what are expected to be several civil claims against the District by former prisoners exonerated through DNA evidence.

The Washington Post has reported that Odom is one of five D.C. men convicted of rape or murder whose charges have been vacated since 2009 because they were based on erroneous forensics and testimony b