Man cleared of rape after 35 years gets $1.7 million

The case marks the first time a Michigan Court of Claims judge awarded money under a new law, which grants $50,000 for every year that a wrongfully convicted person spends in prison.

Fingerprints on file from the 1974 sexual assault pointed to another suspect

Edward Carter was accused of sexually assaulting a person in a bathroom stall on Wayne State University campus and convicted in 1975. He got out when fingerprints from the scene showed another person was responsible. Carter will receive $1.7 million for spending 35 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit during the first hearings to review claims under the new Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act that were held Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017 in Chief Judge Michael Talbot's courtroom in Cadillac Place in Detroit. (Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press via AP)

A man wrongly convicted of rape was awarded $1.7 million on Wednesday under a new Michigan law that allowed him to seek state compensation for the 35 years he spent in prison.

Edward Carter sat in the back of a Detroit courtroom as he and another man became the first to be awarded money under a law that took effect in March. Carter was released from prison in 2010, after fingerprints still on file from the 1974 sexual assault at Wayne State University pointed to another suspect.

"He chooses to live life without bitterness," Carter's attorney, Sima Patel, told the judge.

Carter declined comment after the decision was announced.

New evidence required for payout

It was the first time a Michigan Court of Claims judge awarded money under the new law, which grants $50,000 for every year that a wrongfully convicted person spends in prison. The law states that someone must have a conviction overturned based on new evidence, among other requirements.

Another man, Marwin McHenry, was awarded $175,000. Convicted of attempted murder in 2013, McHenry's conviction was scratched just a few months ago based on new statements from witnesses.

Court of Claims Judge Michael Talbot dismissed two other cases because new evidence wasn't cited in releasing the men from prison. The judge noted that the law "will not and does not apply to all whose convictions have been overturned."

One of the cases involved James Shepherd, who was convicted of first-degree murder in Wayne County in 2012. The state appeals court threw out the conviction, citing a lack of sufficient evidence.

The attorney general's office objected to Shepherd receiving any money, noting that new evidence didn't play a role in his release from prison.

Shepherd's attorney, Wolfgang Mueller, pledged to appeal.

"The case was so bad, it never should have been brought in the first place," Mueller said. "James Shepherd should not be left out in the cold."