[What do people think when you tell them the story of Frederick Daye?]
I've often told this story to people that I meet in the streets, ordinary people, workers, friends. You tell them the Ricky Daye story, and they hear about a man who's innocent and spends 10 years in prison. They're shocked by it, and they say, "Well that case must be a million dollar case, surely. The damages are so tragic, it must be a huge, huge case."
But the problem is that the system has a great [deal] of protections for itself. Our criminal justice system has a great deal of immunities and various legal protections that makes it very difficult to prosecute a case on behalf of someone who has been falsely convicted. In many instances, these immunities prevent you from being able to present this case, present the issue of damages, to present the reasons that the officers resulted in having a conviction.
So all of a sudden, the case that most people in the streets think are multimillion dollar cases turn out to be worth very little.
[It's difficult to sue the state?]
It's extremely difficult to sue a city, a state, a county entity. In many instances, the immunities are tremendous to overcome. It makes it very, very difficult to present the entire case of damages.
In this case, we were restricted; horribly restricted. We were only entitled to present evidence of damages of three days -- from the day Ricky was initially arrested on the charge to the day in which charges were filed by the prosecutor's office. So the jury didn't know that Ricky Daye had spent 10 years in jail. They were not even aware of that. So we were trying a case for damages of three days in jail. ...
From the time the charges were filed, everyone thereafter and everything they did was immunized. In other words, there was no liability for any of the officers, detectives, anyone else that was involved in the case once the charges were filed. So the 10 years that he spent in prison were inconsequential. They could have been 100 years in prison, and it made no difference. ...
[Talk about when you found out that the jury didn't award the compensation to him.]
... I don't think it was any great surprise to me -- or to Ricky or even to the court -- when the jury found no liability against the state for a charge that we were trying approximately 15 years after it occurred. I mean, the jury couldn't even understand why we were here, asking for three days of damages, 15 years after the event occurred. Why was this case even in federal court?
[What is behind this idea of immunity, for prosecutors and police, for example?]
There's been a great deal of protection provided to those who work in the field of law enforcement. These protections are based upon a priority that has been given [to them]. ... So in many instances, these immunities grow out of a desire to make sure that those who file charges against people on a regular basis have some protection. In the event they commit a mistake, they commit an error, they are then still protected. ...
[So what has happened in Daye's case?]
... The legislature in California has been somewhat concerned over the last several years about a number of individuals that have been falsely convicted in California and have spent lengthy periods of time in prison -- 10 years, 15 years, 17 years. So they have begun to look at this problem and see if there is a way that they can, in some manner, compensate these individuals.
So we filed a claim with the state of California. It took us a lengthy period of time of briefs, counterbriefs and discussion of the legal issues in the case. But ultimately, we received a hearing in Sacramento, Calif., on Ricky Daye's behalf. We presented our case, and they preliminarily approved an award of compensation for Ricky Daye.
[Did he get it?]
He hasn't received it yet. The board did approve approximately $389,000 as an award to Ricky Daye. That was based upon the legislature's consideration several years ago that a hundred dollars a day was an appropriate fee to pay for someone who was falsely convicted.
[Talk about how you imagine Ricky's life to be.]
I've gotten to know Ricky fairly well, and I know that he has a tremendous amount of anger. The frustration and the anger that is caused by this is tremendous, and I think he still has a lot of anger. He has anger towards those who convicted him initially, because he was arbitrarily chosen. He has anger towards the system that failed to compensate him after he was released. Basically, the civil justice system failed to provide him with any compensation after they fully recognized that he had been falsely convicted, and that was a double tragedy for him.
I felt such sympathy for him when the verdict came in the civil trial that awarded him no compensation whatsoever. It was truly unfair. ...
[Are those who are released from prison after serving their terms more prepared for the outside world than the exonerated or pardoned ones?]
Yes. Another realization that we had in this case is that, when you are a convicted felon and the time comes for your release, they begin to get you somewhat prepared for that release. There are a number of programs that work you back into society. Some are called halfway houses, and various other types of programs that work an individual back into society, out of the prison community and into normal society.
That doesn't occur for a person who's innocent and who's then suddenly released. They're simply released. They're out of the system. They're not given any assistance or any help. They're not given any type of treatment or therapy. They're simply released into society with all [their] problems and all [their] anger and all [their] frustrations. ...
These types of offenses -- that is, false convictions -- they don't occur to doctors or lawyers, sons of judges, or judges. These only occur to people who don't have the strength of support to scream about their innocence. It's only the person that we can falsely convict and then forget about, because if you have to look at someone like Ricky Daye every day, with realization that he's innocent, you can't live with it. But he has to live with it. It's very difficult, very difficult. It's hard to live that way.
I've read some of his letters while he was in prison, and at times, I think he was really not sure that he wanted to live at all. It's very difficult for him. ...