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.