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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Wrongfully Convicted Man Who Spent 27 Years in Prison Wins $27 Million Lawsuit

Mark Schand

Mark Schand

Springfield, MA — Mark Schand, a Black man from Connecticut who spent 27 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit, was recently awarded $27 million to compensate for every year he was imprisoned.

Schand was then-21-years old when he was sentenced to life without parole after being convicted of shooting and killing Victoria Seymour, a mother of three, during a robbery of a drug dealer outside a club in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1986.

Schand, who was then pegged as a “troublemaker”, was apparently targeted by local detectives who allegedly “showed a photo of Schand wearing sunglasses to one of the drug dealers and told him that Schand ‘had shot Ms. Seymour’,” according to his lawsuit.

Brothers David and Charles “Heavy” Stokes, who were the drug dealers and two of the witnesses, identified Schand as the gunman. Years later, they and the other witnesses who testified that he is the gunman changed their statements and said that the detectives had coerced them into lying.

Schand’s case has reached to Centurion Ministries, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that helps release those who have been wrongfully convicted, and helped find new evidence in his case.

He was officially exonerated in 2013 and his conviction was overturned. The state, however, did not apologize and admit any wrongdoing. They only initially agreed to pay him $450,000.

After two years, he filed a lawsuit against the city of Springfield and the four police officers whom he claimed violated his constitutional rights for framing him for the crime he did not commit which landed him in jail. In his complaint, Schand accused the police of hiding evidence, coercing the witnesses to lie, and manipulating the photo lineups of suspects.

Last Friday, the jury ruled in Schand’s favor and awarded him $27 million.

“After all this time, this is the first time there was some acknowledgment that someone [had] done something in my wrongful conviction, someone was responsible for it,” he told NPR. “And, you know, that was almost better than the monetary damages.”

Heather McDevitt, his attorney, was equally grateful for the ruling, especially because of the justice they received.

“What are 27 years of a person’s life worth?” said McDevitt. “That’s a very interesting philosophical question. There are experiences that can never be recreated. There’s the pain and suffering and subjection to violence and isolation and loneliness.”

Schand, who is now 55-years old, is living with his wife and three sons. He currently owns three sandwich and smoothie shops and said that he does not rely much on the monetary award given to him.

“Nothing is going to change much. It’s only money, I don’t have it yet and I don’t know if I ever will,” he told local media, noting that the city is planning the appeal the decision.