A man who served more than 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit is expected to testify during a Tuesday hearing on his claim for millions in compensation from the state.
The Office of the Claims Commissioner has scheduled a wrongful incarceration hearing for Kenneth Ireland at 11 a.m. in room 2C of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
Ireland was convicted in 1989 of the rape and murder of Barbara Pelkey. He was exonerated in 2009 when DNA evidence helped prosecutors convict another man, Kevin Benefield, of the crime. But Ireland served more than two decades behind bars. His prison term began when he was 18 years old and ended when he was 39.
Ireland is now seeking compensation from the state and his lawyers argue that his claim can be fairly valued at between $5.5 and $8 million. In a damages analysis filed this March, they point to factors like Ireland’s loss of liberty, income, and family relationships. They also account for the physical and mental pain and suffering Ireland experienced in prison.
“Instead of enjoying life as a free man, Mr. Ireland was labeled a murderer and a sex offender and left to fend for himself in an adult prison at a young age. As a young sex offender in an adult prison, he experienced unspeakable violence,” attorneys William Bloss and Sean McElligott wrote in the damages analysis.
The state does not intend to object to the range of compensation outlined by Ireland’s attorneys. In an April letter to Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr., Attorney General George Jepsen said the amount seemed in line with the compensation given to James Tillman, a man who served more than 18 years in prison before he was exonerated.
“The Office of the Attorney General is not required by statute to take a position with respect to the amount of compensation sought by a person deemed to have been wrongfully incarcerated. Nevertheless, we have reviewed Mr. Ireland’s damages analysis and are unaware of any significant misstatements of law or fact therein,” Jepsen wrote.
Depending on what the Office of the Claims Commissioner recommends, Ireland’s claim may need to be considered by the legislature. In 2007, the legislature voted to award Tillman $5 million in compensation, which former Gov. M. Jodi Rell later approved.