Tort Law

Lawyer Who Got JD to Represent Brother Wins $10.7M for Wrongful Conviction


A high-school dropout with two children who went on to get her general educational development certificate, graduate from college and earn a juris doctor degree so that she could represent her brother in a wrongful conviction case has now won $10.7 million in damages from a federal judge in Massachusetts.

But the award by U.S. District Judge George O’Toole Jr. was a bittersweet win for Betty Anne Waters. She sued as the executrix of the estate of her brother, Kenneth, who died in an accident only six months after his murder conviction was vacated in 2001, reports the National Law Journal in an article reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

The story of her battle to overturn Kenneth Waters’ wrongful conviction and his 18-year prison stint is being told in a movie starring Hillary Swank that is now in post-production, the legal publication recounts. It says the judge considered Waters’ lengthy incarceration, his emotional distress and his injuries and illness as a result of his wrongful conviction in rendering the award.

The town of Ayer, Mass., and five of its six insurers partially settled for $3.4 million earlier this year the civil rights lawsuit filed on Kenneth Waters’ behalf.

Partner Debi Cornwall of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin helped represent Betty Anne Waters in the suit. Cornwall says Waters intends to pursue the sixth insurer for the balance of the $10.7 million judgment and other damages, the NLJ reports.

Lawyers at Boston’s Kopelman and Paige, which represented the the town of Ayers and individual police officer defendants, didn’t respond to the National Law Journal’s requests for comment.

After the earlier partial settlement, the defendants did not contest their liability in the case, according to the NLJ.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Hilary Swank’s Next Movie Based on Law Student’s Fight to Exonerate Brother”

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