In 38 states and the District of Columbia, exonerees may file compensation claims against the state in addition to, or in lieu of, civil rights lawsuits against municipalities, Mr. Gutman said.
Average payouts by New York State are among the country’s highest, he said, and account for more than one-third of all state claims nationally. When those are combined with damages from municipalities in civil rights cases, the amount paid to exonerees in New York State tops $1 billion, far more than payments in any other state, Mr. Gutman said.
Since 1989, New York State has had the third most exonerees in the country at 319, behind Illinois at 556 and Texas at 437.
For the past decade, a parade of people have been freed from New York prisons after being convicted around the early 1990s, when high crime rates pressured the police and prosecutors to pursue arrests aggressively. That contributed to a rash of wrongful convictions stemming from flawed police tactics, coerced confessions, bad witnesses and the suppression of vindicating evidence.
Many exonerees filed federal lawsuits against New York City, which over the past decade has paid out about $500 million. Those who have served more than a decade in prison can often receive more than $10 million in combined claims, settlements or judgments.
One of Mr. Kuby’s clients, Sundhe Moses, served 18 years for a wrongful 1995 murder conviction in Brooklyn. When Mr. Moses was released in 2013, he was broke and desperate for cash to cover debts, including $40,000 in child support.
Mr. Moses said that while his federal lawsuit against New York City progressed, a fellow exoneree referred him to Rory Donadio, chief executive officer of Tribeca Capital Group, a litigation funding firm that offers cash advances.
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