Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Currently, 33 states have laws that allow the wrongfully convicted to receive compensation based upon their years of imprisonment. Georgia is not one of those states. What this means is that a state representative must submit what's known as a “private bill” to compensate one individual, rather than creating a policy for compensation any time someone is proven innocent.
One example of such a bill can be found in the case of Clarence Harrison, who was convicted of rape and robbery in 1987 but was later released in 2004 based upon the conclusion that "DNA evidence obtained from Harrison could not possibly belong to the same man whose DNA was in the rape kit." After Harrison was released, several Georgia representatives filed a private bill that gave Harrison $1 million in compensation.
The beginning of the private bill in the Clarence Harrison case.
This then takes us to the recent exoneration of Kelvin Bradley.*
Bradley was one of around 200 attendees of a "repast" (a big post-funeral meal) in a residential neighborhood of Atlanta to commemorate the passing of Keith Jacobs. At the repast, Bradley witnessed Tomika Webb arguing loudly with her boyfriend, Javenski Hilton, because he owed her money for crack cocaine. Eventually, Webb got into her car and sped down a hill and through a crowd of people. After Webb almost struck several children, the crowd attempted to prevent her from committing more assaults. They tried to pull her from the vehicle, but this proved ineffective, and Webb put her car in reverse to drive through the crowd again.
Bradley was standing next to Tina Pullins when Webb struck her with her car. Bradley was attempting to shove Pullins out of the way, but Pullins ended up trapped between a white truck and Webb's vehicle. Bradley testified that Pullins appeared to be in some pain and that his foot was also run over. As Webb sped up again, Bradley could see that there were more people on the roadway and could hear Webb accelerating heavily. In response, Bradley drew the gun that he used for his work as a security guard and fired three shots, one of which struck and killed Webb.
When Bradley was subsequently arrested, he invoked his right to remain silent, but the detectives kept questioning him, with Bradley admitting to the shooting. At Bradley's ensuing trial, the judge found that Bradley's statement to detectives was inadmissible because it was taken in violation of his right to remain silent. The prosecutor, however, improperly argued that Bradley never spoke with police. Meanwhile, Bradley's attorney never told him that Georgia citizens are immune from prosecution if they use deadly force to prevent a forcible felony from being committed against themselves or third persons. See O.C.G.A. § 16-3-21, O.C.G.A. §16-3-24.2.
Eventually, the jury convicted Bradley of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in 2012, and he was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment despite his lack of a criminal record. Five years later, in 2017, a judge granted Bradley a new trial based on the prosecutor's misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel by Bradley's trial counsel. That same year, the judge dismissed the case against Bradley, finding that he was immune from prosecution under O.C.G.A. § 16-3-21, O.C.G.A. §16-3-24.2 (Download Proposed order).
Because Georgia doesn't have a wrongful conviction compensation law, his appellate attorney, Andrew S. Fleischman, is currently working on a private bill that he hopes to submit soon. Once he does, I hope that you will join me in supporting the effort to get the bill passed so that Bradley can be compensated for his five years of wrongful incarceration.
*Here is Kelvin Bradley's entry in the National Registry of Exonerations.