Freed Man’s Choice: Take the Cash or Sue for Wrongful Imprisonment

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Greg Smith / CORBIS

Three weeks ago, Michael A. Green walked out of the Texas penitentiary system a free man — but only after spending 27 years in prison for a rape that DNA evidence proved he didn’t commit.

But his freedom has presented a new problem: sue the State of Texas for mistakenly taking away the best years of his life, or take a $2.2 million settlement in exchange for waiving the right to litigate at all, The New York Times reported. It is a gripping choice he must make after nearly two decades of hell.

Green was identified in a police lineup by a rape victim in 1983 when cops swept his neighborhood looking for the assailant. The victim was white, all the suspects were black. Although he maintained the whole thing was a setup (he was first arrested while stealing a car), he was pointed out again at his trial and sentenced to 75 years behind bars.

Fast forward to 2008 and Harris County (Tex.) District Attorney Patricia Lykos finds evidence that proves Green’s innocence and points to offenders who are already imprisoned. Now Green stays with an aunt and is trying to become accustomed to live on the outside. But he must still ponder what he will do about the injustice done to him.

“What I really need to do is to make them pay for what they done to me,” he told the Times. “Two-point-two million dollars is nothing when it comes to 27 years of my life, which I spent with mental torture and physical abuse.”