Newswise — Seven years ago, with the help of IU School of Law-Indianapolis Professor Fran Hardy and four of her students, Larry Mayes of Gary, Indiana, was set free from prison based on DNA testing.
This month a federal court approved a $4.5 million settlement for Mayes - who before his release spent 21 years in prison for a rape conviction. The U.S. magistrate agreed on Sept. 2, 2008, that the 2006 federal jury award of $9 million to Mayes could be set aside, paving the way for the settlement between the man and Hammond, Indiana, city officials, according to an Associated Press report. Mayes originally had sought $19 million in damages and legal fees from the city, according to the AP story.
Mayes, who had been convicted in 1990 of several acts, including rape, was released on Dec. 21, 2001. After his exoneration, Mayes was represented by private counsel during the civil proceedings.
"I am certainly pleased that Larry Mayes will finally receive compensation for his unconstitutional, wrongful conviction," Professor Hardy said Friday (Sept. 5, 2008).
State Public Defender Susan Carpenter had appointed Hardy as pro bono counsel for Mayes. Hardy worked on the case with the help of four students in a criminal defense clinic course, Todd Ess, Edward Queen, Alicia Corder and Darlene Seymour. The team filed the petition for post-conviction relief that requested DNA testing in Mayes' case.
"The settlement for Mr. Mayes can only partly compensate him for everything he lost while he was in prison," says Queen, who now directs leadership education programs in the Center for Ethics at Emory University in Atlanta.
"While some may see Mayes' release and the payment as an indication that the legal system works, the fact that he was wrongfully convicted and jailed for such a long time is an indicator that the system indeed is broken," Queen said.
In their petition, the law students cited I.C. 35-38-7, the Indiana law that strengthened Indiana inmates' rights to DNA testing and analysis. After DNA testing exonerated Mayes, Judge Richard Maroc of Lake Superior Court signed the court papers ordering his release.
Hardy's class was part of a national program, The Innocence Network, an offshoot of The Innocence Project, founded in 1992 at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law located in New York City. The project's mission is to assist prisoners who can be exonerated through DNA testing of crime scene evidence. Law faculty and students at Cardozo School of Law referred the Mayes case to the Indianapolis law school which participates in The Innocence Network.
At the time, Mayes was the third Indiana man to be released as a result of post-conviction DNA testing. Presently, according to records compiled by The Innocence Project, six Indiana men have been exonerated by DNA testing.