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Exonerated Iowa Man Awarded $12 Million After Wrongful Imprisonment

Sep 29, 2022

IOWA CITY, Iowa, Sept. 29, 2022 -- An exonerated Iowa man who spent more than six years in prison for a sex crime he did not commit was awarded $12 million by a state district court jury today, The Spence Law Firm, LLC and co-counsel said.

Jurors in the Iowa District Court in Johnson County returned the verdict for Donald L. Clark, of Iowa City, Iowa, after six days of testimony and just over two hours of deliberation, finding that the state public defender’s failure to investigate the state’s case against Mr. Clark and a substandard trial performance in 2009 led to his conviction and wrongful imprisonment. The public defender, John Robertson, died in 2013.

In May 2016, an Iowa District Court entered an order vacating Mr. Clark’s conviction after finding Mr. Robertson was ineffective as defense counsel. The court ruled that Mr. Clark was not only not guilty, but also “actually innocent,” a legally important finding. Mr. Clark had served six years of a 25-year prison sentence.

After the verdict today, Mr. Clark said, “No matter what happens from here on out, I’m not only free from prison, but I’m also free from the state’s prison of lies. With this verdict, the rebuilding of my life can continue.”

Mr. Clark is represented by attorneys Mel C. Orchard, III, of The Spence Law Firm, LLC, of Jackson, Wyo.; Thomas P. Frerichs, of Frerichs, Law Office, PC, of Waterloo, Iowa; and Frank J. Nidey, of Nidey Erdahl Meier & Araguás, PLC of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The jury awarded Mr. Clark $8 million in past emotional distress damages and $4 million for future damages.

Mr. Orchard said, “We’re grateful that this jury was moved to do justice for and honor a member of their community. This verdict for a good man reinforced my belief that the jury system is the most important part of our democracy.”

Mr. Frerichs said, “Fighting for people like Don Clark who are wrongly accused or convicted is my life’s work. He deserved justice, and this verdict was another step forward for him in setting the record straight.”

The case is Donald Lyle Clark vs. State of Iowa, in Iowa District Court in Johnson County.

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