Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

Wrongfully Convicted Prisoner Receives Full Compensation from Texas

(November 18, 2011, Weil News)

A team of Weil attorneys helped secure increased compensation for an inmate who was wrongfully convicted of and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. In granting a joint motion to dismiss, the Texas Supreme Court’s decision reflects an agreement reached late last month by the exonerated former inmate, Larry Charles Fuller, and the state, whereby Fuller will receive increased compensation for his wrongful imprisonment pursuant to a 2009 amendment to the Texas Wrongful Imprisonment Act.

Fuller had served nearly 20 years in prison of a sentence for an alleged rape before being exonerated by DNA evidence and receiving a full pardon from Texas Governor Rick Perry in 2007. Under the Texas Wrongful Imprisonment Act, Fuller received a lump-sum payment of approximately $1 million as compensation for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment. When the Act was amended in 2009 to provide for additional compensation and an annuity, Fuller filed applications seeking the newly created annuity, as well as the difference between what the new legislation provided and what he previously received.

While the Texas State Comptroller granted Fuller’s request for the newly created annuity, amounting to just over $11,500, his request for an additional lump-sum payment was denied on the grounds that it was barred by his previous application for lump-sum compensation under the old version of the Act and was an impermissible request for retroactive adjustment of his prior application. Weil, which represented Fuller throughout these proceedings, contended that the Act placed no limits on the number of independent requests for compensation, only on the amount of time (three years from the date of a pardon) within which an application for compensation must be made, and that Fuller’s application was made well within the relevant time period. Weil continued negotiating with the Comptroller on Fuller's behalf and filed additional papers seeking reconsideration, but the Comptroller again denied Fuller's request.

Weil filed a mandamus petition in the Texas Supreme Court, by statute the only means of review, challenging the Comptroller’s decision to deny Fuller the additional lump sum payment as a violation of her ministerial duty under the Act to compensate exonerees who demonstrate actual innocence through a pardon, a criterion that the Comptroller does not dispute as to Fuller. The Texas Supreme Court had scheduled oral argument for December 2011 on the issue of whether the Act permits successive applications within the three-year statutory window.

Several weeks ago, the State Comptroller, represented by the Texas Solicitor General’s office, agreed that the Comptroller could make full payment to Fuller. On November 18, 2011, the Texas Supreme Court granted Fuller’s and the Comptroller’s joint motion to dismiss the mandamus petition, and Fuller has now received an additional lump sum payment of more than $750,000, the full compensation to which he is entitled under the law.

Fuller was represented, pro bono, by a team of Weil attorneys including Litigation partners Yolanda Garcia and Yvette Ostolaza (both in Dallas), Appellate Litigation counsel Lisa Eskow (Houston), and Litigation associates Daniel Klein, Cheves Ligon, Victoria Neave, Emmanuel Obi, Ricardo Pellafone and Mandisa Price (all in Dallas).

This case was covered in the press, including in The JD Journal.
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