A Wichita man whose Lawrence rape case drew national attention has filed a wrongful conviction lawsuit against the state.
Albert N. Wilson, now 26 years old, was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison after a Douglas County jury found him guilty of rape in January 2019. The case made headlines across the country because people many believed that Wilson, a young Black man, was wrongly convicted by a jury of mostly white women, symptomatic of larger issues of systemic racism. His conviction was overturned in March 2021.
Douglas County District Court Judge Sally Pokorny ruled that the jury could have come to a different decision in Wilson’s case if the jurors had known about certain evidence that Wilson’s attorney did not use, and if the state’s expert forensic psychologist had not bolstered the accuser’s credibility. Pokorny ruled that a retrial was necessary.
Wilson was released from prison days later, and his case was set for a retrial that would have begun in February 2022. But just before Christmas, the district attorney’s office dismissed the case, saying that the matter had been resolved through a restorative justice session.
No details about what happened in the session were shared publicly: “To protect the sanctity of the process and the privacy and dignity of the parties, all involved agreed that what occurred during that session shall remain confidential,” the DA’s office said in a statement at the time.
Wilson was incarcerated for about two years, three and a half months, according to the civil case. He was a University of Kansas student with no criminal history when he was accused of rape.
The lawsuit states that Wilson did not commit the crime for which he was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. It seeks monetary relief allowed under the state’s wrongful conviction law, which is $65,000 per year of imprisonment.
Exonerees can also receive “not less than $25,000” per year wrongfully served on parole, probation or required to register as an offender, according to the statute. Wilson became a registered sex offender Feb. 22, 2019. He was still listed in the registry as of Wednesday, though the KBI’s online offender registry showed that his registration information has not been updated since before he was released from prison.
The three-page petition also seeks attorney fees and costs incurred for the civil case, tuition assistance, state health care benefits, and a certificate of innocence, after which all arrest records would be expunged and purged from state and federal systems.
Larry Michel, a Salina attorney, is representing Wilson.
Michel has represented other exonerees in other cases, including one whose Sedgwick County case went to the Kansas Supreme Court. In that case, the court ruled in August 2015 that defendants whose convictions have been overturned because of ineffective assistance of counsel may pursue a civil malpractice claim without first demonstrating actual innocence of the charges leading to the conviction.
Wilson’s appellate attorneys were Josh Dubin, of Dubin Research & Consulting, an innocence ambassador for the Innocence Project, and Wichita-based appellate defender Michael Whalen.
From December 2018 through January of this year, 14 people have filed lawsuits against the state under the wrongful conviction statute, according to the attorney general’s office. Six have reached judgment and payment has been made or is in process; the district court ruled against one claimant; and an eighth case was rejected at the district court level. Five other cases remained in litigation in district courts as of Jan. 25.
Court records did not yet indicate Wednesday that any hearing dates have been set in Wilson’s civil case, and the AG’s office had not yet filed an answer to Wilson’s petition.
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