Donald Clark won $12 million in a lawsuit he filed against the state of Iowa on Thursday, years after being exonerated and released from prison on false charges that he sexually abused a student while working as an Iowa City elementary school counselor.
A jury awarded Clark $8 million in past emotional distress damages and $4 million for future damages after he spent six years in prison starting in 2010. He was released in 2016 when his conviction was vacated. That year, the court found that his public defender, John Robertson, was ineffective and declared Clark not guilty, but also “actually innocent,” a legally important finding, according to a news release from Clark’s lawyers at The Spence Law Firm LLC.
The jury found that Robertson, who died in 2013, failed to investigate the prosecution’s case against Clark, and a “substandard trial performance led to his conviction and wrongful imprisonment.”
Mel Orchard III of Jackson, Wyoming, one of Clark’s lawyers, told the Press-Citizen on Friday that Clark was joyous when the decision was rendered. Clark and his lawyers spent five years suing the state since his original 25-year prison sentence was vacated.