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$6.9M Award for Connecticut Man Cleared of 2 Rapes After More Than a Decade Behind Bars

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$6.9M Award for Connecticut Man Cleared of 2 Rapes After More Than a Decade Behind Bars

September 16, 2021

A central Connecticut man who spent 12 years in prison for two rapes—that now even the state says he didn’t commit—has been awarded $6.9 million, thanks to DNA testing that exonerated him.

Plaintiffs counsel Rosemarie Paine of Jacobs & Dow in New Haven said DNA results were made public in 2014 and cleared her client, Luis Figueroa. But those 12 years he spent behind bars, plus five more on probation during which he had to enlist in mandated sex offender programs, “turned his life upside down,” she said.

“The DNA left no doubt in anyone’s mind that he did not commit the sex assaults, but what the [claims] commissioner saw was the irrefutable evidence of how this mistaken identification and wrongful conviction infected every area of his life,” Paine said Thursday. “It held him back in every way. Because he was listed as sex offender, it was difficult for him to get housing and he was frequently homeless.”

The rape conviction stems from alleged assaults on two separate women, in March and April 1995. In both cases, the alleged victims were shown photographs the police had of Figueroa, who had been arrested before for two larcenies related to car theft and an assault stemming from a street fight.

In the claimant’s post-hearing memorandum, Paine wrote that, with regard to the second sexual assault, “Despite the fact that the victim never identified [Figueroa] as her assailant, [he] was nevertheless charged with her assault on the basis of the Yale student’s [the first victim] photo identification of him as her perpetrator.”

Figueroa was incarcerated from 1995 to 2007. He was sent to prison when he was 20, and is now in his mid-40s.

In her memorandum of decision in the matter, Claims Commissioner Christy Scott said Figueroa suffered unfairly.

“The claimant was a young man still wondering where his life would lead when a mistaken identification set him on a road of suffering and shame,” Scott wrote. “A day came when the truth was known—he was innocent—and that truth should have eased his pain, but those who knew it did not share it and he continued to suffer for five long years more.”

Scott was referring to the fact that the DNA results were known in 2009, but not made public until a Freedom of Information Act request was made five years later.

Scott wrote that the truth “helped ease his pain, but it could not erase it. The damage was done. … Compensation cannot fully repair the damage done, but it may perhaps help to smooth the claimant’s path back to health and peace.”

Scott awarded Figueroa $6.9 million, which has since been disbursed.