Circuit Splits on Relief for Innocent Man Imprisoned for 19 Years
By Scott Graham
September 24, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO — Harold Hall has suffered one injustice. On Monday, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit panel bent over backward to make sure he wasn't hit with another.
Stretching to avoid a "manifest injustice," a 2-1 panel of the court revived a long-abandoned theory of liability that could compensate Hall for spending 19 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.
"The extraordinary circumstances here convince us that we must remand this matter for amendment of the complaint in order to prevent a woefully unjust result," Senior Judge Dorothy Nelson wrote in Hall v. City of Los Angeles. Judge Ronald Gould concurred.
Dissenting Judge Sandra Ikuta said that while the majority's heart might be in the right place, its reasoning was way out of bounds. The majority "begins by creating a novel argument for Hall, and then, having concluded that its own argument has merit, it proceeds to resolve the case on those grounds," Ikuta wrote.
Hall witnessed a 1984 gang shooting in which five people were killed and five others shot. Hall cooperated with police, leading to such intense police protection of his home that a police detective, Wayne Dufort, became like a father figure to him, according to Nelson's opinion. A year later, when Hall was arrested for robbery, Dufort arranged for him to be housed with police informants to protect him from a revenge killing. Read more here