Inmate kept behind bars longer due to trial mistakes

WTNH– Brushaun Thompson never shies away from what he calls his past mistakes. He is a felon. He has been convicted on drug and larceny charges going back to his teens. He is, however, fighting a 2005 charge, not only on the facts, but also how prosecutors handled the case.

In 2005, Thompson was arrested on a state-wide credit card scheme. Items purchased at a Newington Lowe’s and a Bridgeport Coach store with a stolen credit card were then attempted to be sold. Police and prosecutors said Thompson was their man.

Before the trial started, prosecutors asked the court to “join” the cases, a process by which cases are put together, so a defendant can have one trial, instead of several. In Thompson’s case, his 6 charges were all tried in Norwalk under one “information”.

It is what happened to those cases, before that trial, however, that has him and Bridgeport attorney Beverly Carswell saying something is not right.

“He served time separately for a non-existent charge,” said Carswell.

The 30 year attorney said what happened to Thompson is not the way things are meant to happen in the court system.

“It sounds to me like somebody made a big, big big huge mistake.”

Carswell’s claim is that the state did not follow the law in joining those cases. Instead, they dismissed the Newington case, but somehow, still took Thompson to trial on that case. The state dismisses that explanation, saying procedure was followed. Each case can only have one number assigned to it. After all of the cases are joined together, the original number attached to the case has to be dismissed. That, they say is what they did.

No court official would be interviewed for this report. Shortly after Thompson filed a wrongful incarceration claim with the state’s Claims Commission, Carswell signed on to represent him.

“If this is an administrative error that kept me in prison… what if an administrative error releases someone from prison?”

Carswell points to letters Thompson obtained from the towns of Newington and Westport, both towns he was arrested in for the charges. Newington does not have a criminal record for Thompson and Westport identified an error in their number of charges against him.

“The State of Connecticut’s combining of several cases and/or dockets into one… clearly has resulted in confusion over the appropriate charges and dispositions to be included in this departments arrest record. Several attempts appear to have been made to rectify this problem and eliminate incorrect charges over the past year or so,” wrote Westport Chief of Police Dale Call in a January 9, 2014 letter addressed to Thompson.

“It would seem impossible for something like this to happen”

Thompson filed a claim with the State of Connecticut’s Claims Commission, established in 2007 after the release of James Tillman. In 2006, DNA evidence found Tillman innocent of an East Hartford kidnapping, rape and robbery. The first claim to be sent to the Claims Commission after Tillman was in 2009. That case, along with 80 percent of the other cases currently before the Commission are still pending. Along with the rest, Thompson’s case remains pending. Last week, the state closed their first and only case from the wrongful incarceration claims.

Kevin Douglas was paid $5,183 after the State’s Fugitive Task Force misidentified him as a fugitive. He spent seven days behind bars because of that misidentification. It took the state’s claims commission nine months to reach its conclusion.

“These cases are not simply an yes or no decision and I can assure you, these cases are actively progressing,” said Claims Commissioner J Paul Vance Jr. via email. His office declined comment for this story, citing the pending claim by Thompson.

Thompson said he is not angry at the years in prison he feels he spent there incorrectly. He said he wants to shed light to a problem with the justice system that “turns a blind eye to cries of inaccuracy.”

“How many other administrative errors have transpired over the years,” asked Thompson.

Here is a list of all of the “Wrongful Incarceration” claims that have been filed:

NAME OF CLAIMANT Filed with Claims Commission on: STATUS
McElveen, William 11/9/2009 Pending
Cutler, David 5/6/2010 Pending
Miller, Lawrence J. 9/27/2010 Pending
Colton, Murry 9/28/2010 Pending
Seri, Michael 9/29/2010 Pending
Roman, Miguel 11/15/2010 Pending
Ireland, Kenneth 11/29/2010 Pending
Gould, George 3/18/2011 Open and pending – Hearing for Withdrawal of Counsel was on 4/8/14
Taylor, Ronald 3/18/2011 Closed – Attorney withdrew on 2/4/14
Cox, Willie 10/27/2011 Pending
Faint, William 12/19/2011 Pending
Smith, Carleton 12/21/2011 Pending – scheduling order in place
Santiago, Jaime 5/21/2012 Pending
Thompson, Hubert 8/3/2012 Pending
Richardson, Donald S. 11/26/2013 Pending
Douglas, Kevin 12/12/2013 Award – closed
Thompson, Brushaun 12/23/2013 Pending
Fourtin, Richard 1/22/2014 Pending
Allen (Pernell), Linda 5/6/2014 MTD Filed on 6/4/14 – waiting on opposition
Ashe, Carlos 7/1/2014 Pending – brand new

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