Exonerated Man Can|Pursue Civil Claims

     SEATTLE (CN) – A man whose conviction for burglary and rape was vacated after he served a full 10-year sentence may pursue claims that the prosecuor’s detective fabricated evidence, the Ninth Circuit ruled Friday.
     In 1996, Ted Bradford was convicted for a residential burglary and rape in Yakima, Washington. But the conviction was vacated in 2008 after DNA testing of evidence collected from the crime scene.
     A Washington jury acquitted Bradford of all charges on Feb. 10, 2010.
     Three years later, Bradford filed an action claiming that Detective Joseph Scherschligt deliberately fabricated inculpatory evidence. Scherschligt contended that Bradford’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations, and that he was entitled to qualified immunity.
     A federal judge found for Scherschligt, but the Circuit’s three-judge panel reversed the decision finding that Bradford’s claim was not time-barred because the clock started ticking once he was no longer subject to criminal charges.
     In the panel’s 15-page opinion, Circuit Judge Michael Hawkins wrote that “the inquiry here is not as simple as merely identifying the onset date of injury.”
     “Here, Bradford alleges a violation of his due process rights based on the initiation of criminal charges that were based on allegedly fabricated evidence,” Hawkins wrote. “The constitutional violation and resultant injury thus began on the date that the state brought charges against Bradford.”
     But since “Bradford’s conviction was vacated in a manner that specifically permitted the pursuit of the same charges against him based on the same evidence,” Hawkins said, the limitations period does not begin on the date that Bradford knew of his injury.
     Using the Fourth Circuit’s precedential analysis of the accrual rules for malicious prosecution claims – in which the appeals court noted that such a claim does not accrue until the proceedings against the plaintiff have been “terminated in such a manner that they cannot be revived” – Hawkins said that setting the accrual date for Bradford’s claim as the date of his acquittal is “logical.”
     “Setting the triggering date for the onset of the limitations period as the date of acquittal also makes practical sense,” he said.
     “His claim seeking to vindicate his right to be free from those criminal charges based on the allegedly fabricated evidence did not accrue until the charges were fully and finally resolved and could no longer be brought against him.”
     The panel reversed the district court’s dismissal of Bradford’s claim as time-barred, and it remanded to the district court to consider whether Scherschligt is entitled to qualified immunity under the circumstances.
     Bradford’s attorney Leonard Feldman, with Peterson Wampold in Seattle, praised the panel’s decision.
     “The 9th Circuit correctly analyzed the accrual issue. We’re grateful to the court for its ruling, and we look forward to mitigating Mr. Bradford’s intentional fabrication of evidence claims on remand,” Feldman told Courthouse News.
     Scherschligt’s attorney could not be reached for comment by press time.

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