Millions Appropriate for Exonerated New Yorker
(CN) - A New York man who was wrongfully convicted of trying to kill his wife is entitled to $5.4 million in damages, a state appeals court ruled.
Daniel Gristwood was convicted of attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon after his wife was attacked in January 1996.
Though he inculpated himself during an initial police interrogation, Gristwood otherwise maintained that he was innocent.
That was the only evidence against Gristwood, but he was convicted and sentenced to prison for 12.5 to 25 years.
Someone else admitted to the crime in 2003, however, and that person's extensive detail led to the reversal of Gristwood's conviction.
Freed after nine years in prison Gristwood sued the state for wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
The trial court ruled in his favor, awarding him $5.4 million, and the Appellate Division's Fourth Department in Rochester affirmed on July 11.
First, the justices rejected the state's contention that the trial court should not have excluded transcripts of Gristwood's criminal trial as cumulative.
The justices also blamed police misconduct for the inculpatory statement that landed Gristwood in jail for nine years.
"Claimant was awake for 34 hours before making his only inculpatory statement, which was the second statement he made," the unsigned ruling states. "He had been interrogated for 15 hours in a six- by eight-foot windowless room. He ate nothing and drank only one can of soda and, although he was a heavy smoker, he had no cigarettes in the prior four or five hours."
Gristwood was also traumatized by seeing his wife in "a horrible bloodied and battered condition," and his inculpatory statement came after police "threatened that he would never see his family again if he did not cooperate," the court found.
Supporting the amount of damages, the court noted that Gristwood's conviction had a "catastrophic effect" on his life.
"Claimant also established that he suffers from chronic posttraumatic stress disorder, chronic depressive disorder, and chronic anxiety disorder and prominent avoidant and paranoid traits, all as the result of his unjust conviction and incarceration," the justices wrote.