Re: Do the wrongfully imprisoned get compensation?

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In response to my previous post on wrongful imprisonment, Eric Liebman writes:

The answer to your title question is: Sometimes, Maybe. Your blog
entry reminds me of the Joe Salvati case; Salvati was falsely
convicted in State court (Mass.) of being an accomplice to a mafia hit
in the mid 1960’s, and he spent almost 30 years in prison. (The
prosecutors had requested the death penalty for the defendants in this
case.) I had the great fortune of working for his heroic attorney
Victor Garo on this very case when I was in law school in the mid

The FBI knew that the only witness against Salvati was lying; the FBI
also falsely told the state prosecutors that the witness’s story was
consistent with the facts the feds had collected, and they hid
testimony that would’ve exonerated him, but, you see, it was more
important for the FBI to prove they were fighting the mafia, so they
let Salvati (and other co-defendants) sit in prison. Sadly, some of
the convicted defendants died before being exonerated.

The FBI’s excuse, when Salvati and the others sued the U.S. government
for massive damages, was that “federal authorities couldn’t be held
responsible for the results of a state prosecution and had no duty to
share information with the officials who prosecuted Limone, Salvati,
Henry Tameleo and Louis Greco.” To her credit, federal Judge judge
Nancy Gertner, hearing the case earlier this year, told the feds that
their arguments were “absurd.”

In 2001, President Bush invoked executive privilege to keep Congress
from ever seeing the FBI documents concerning these wrongful
imprisonments. (After all, how would this all look at a time Bush was
demanding unprecedented executive powers for himself?) Bush wrote in
a memo to A.G. Ashcroft that “I believe congressional access to these
documents would be contrary to the national interest,” and that
“disclosure to Congress of confidential advice to the attorney general
regarding the appointment of a special counsel and confidential
recommendations to Department of Justice officials regarding whether
to bring criminal charges would inhibit the candor necessary to the
effectiveness of the deliberative process by which the department
makes prosecutorial decisions.”

Not surprisingly, the ever-loyal and morally-challenged Alberto
Gonzalez was behind this recommendation, which represented an
unprecedented extension of executive privilege.

In the end Salvati did get compensation, but he had to fight for years
to get it, and the incorrectly-named “Justice Department” is STILL
contemplating an appeal. Of course, no amount of money can compensate
for what the government did to him.

7:11 pm on September 4, 2007