Groundbreaking report on the cost of statewide wrongful convictions

-    A Bay Area man who spent 12 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit is speaking out about a new study that puts actual numbers on the cost statewide of wrongful convictions.

   The study, published by the Warren Institute at UC Berkeley, found that taxpayers spent $282 million for so-called “faulty convictions” in California from 1989 to 2012.  The report identified 692 cases in which errors were made, and found that wrongfully convicted suspects spent more than 2,000 years falsely imprisoned.

   “This is a game of wins and losses.  It has nothing to do with justice,” said Rick Walker, who was exonerated of murder charges in the death of his ex-girlfriend in 1991 in East Palo Alto.  Walker was released from prison in 2003 and cleared of all charges.  Another man was eventually convicted of the crime.

   The state of California paid Walker $420,000 or one-hundred dollars for each day he spent in prison.  Walker later sued Santa Clara County and received a settlement of $2.7 million.

   Rebecca Silbert, who authored the report, said Walker’s case is not an anomaly and said the problem of faulty convictions is almost certainly more widespread that her research indicates.

   “We know it’s just the tip of the iceberg because we only included cases that we could find and verify,” Silbert said, explaining that many courts across the state don’t keep adequate records.

   Walker now serves on the board of the Northern California Innocence Project.  He says he’s focusing his efforts on preventing what happened to him from happening to others.

   “At this point, I don’t need an apology,” Walker said, referring to the prosecutors who pursued his case.  “I just need them to do their job, and keep their oath to pursue justice at all costs."

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