Judge Reluctantly Kills NPR-Inspired Lawsuit

     WASHINGTON (CN) – It is too late for the courts to help a woman who recently learned the truth from NPR about her wrongful arrest 19 years ago, a federal judge ruled.
     “Sometimes even conceded wrongs cannot be addressed by the judicial process,” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta wrote. “This is such a case.”
     The case stems from Kim Crafton’s 10-month detention in 1994 on charges of robbery and felony murder.
     Police had picked the woman up after believing that she matched the appearance of a woman in a grainy photo from an ATM where the victim’s credit card was used.
     Though the log book at a homeless shelter Crafton was living supported her alibi, police failed to turn that evidence over to defense counsel, as well as receipts on the stolen credit card that Crafton could not have signed.
     Prosecutors eventually dropped the charges, but Crafton’s record was never expunged. She claims the arrest cost her custody of her children – a circumstance she remains unable to resolve today because of the record – and her place in a homeless shelter.
     Meanwhile, James Trainum, the D.C. metropolitan police officer who interrogated her for 17 hours in 1994, began using Crafton’s case to lecture on police-interrogation tactics.
     The public radio show “This American Life” explored the case in an October 2013 episode and played Crafton portions of an interview with Trainum in which he admitted to having inadvertently fed her information and coerced her into admitting to her role in the crime with the implied threat that she would never again see her children otherwise.
     Trainum said he quietly realized that he had obtained a false confession only after he picked up the homeless shelter log books because Crafton had recanted her confession, having spent 10 months in jail waiting for trial.
     Though civil claims for wrongful imprisonment have a three-year statute of limitations, Crafton hoped to toll the window since she did not learn the truth until a producer for “This American Life” contacted her.
     Judge Mehta nevertheless dismissed the case in its entirety on Sept. 23.
     Although Crafton was not aware that she could do anything about her wrongful imprisonment and coerced confession until 2013, she knew that she had been wronged for 20 years.
     “Accrual of a claim commences when a person learns the facts that constitute the claim, or could learn of them through reasonable diligence,” the 14-page opinion states. “Thus, the fact that Plaintiff might not have gained actual knowledge that she had a ‘viable claim’ until 2013 did not delay accrual of her claim or toll the limitations period from accruing.”

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