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Innocent Idaho Prisoner Receives $900,000 for 21 Years Wrongful Incarceration

After spending nearly twenty-one years incarcerated for murder, Donald M. Paradis was released from Idaho?s death row on April 10, 2001. Now, just over fiver years later, Paradis is set to receive $900,000 for his wrongful conviction and incarceration. This case demonstrates an especially egregious case of police and prosecutorial conduct to obtain a conviction.

Paradis was convicted of the June 1980 murder of Kimberly Ann Palmer in Kootenai County, Idaho. He was sentenced to death. The case began with a conspiracy at the start, for prosecutors could not determine where Palmer and her friend Scott Currier were killed. The bodies were found together in Kootenai County.

It was surmised the killings occurred at a residence in Spokane, Washington. Originally, Paradis, Charles Amacher, and Thomas Gibson were charged in Spokane with both murders. A subsequent deal resulted in only the Currier murder proceeding. After an acquittal, Paradis and Gibson were charged with Palmer?s murder in Kootenai County.

During trial, Gibson wrote the judge a note saying he knew Palmer was killed in Spokane and Paradis was not present. The trials were bifurcated. Kootenai prosecutors then sought to fill the holes in their case that established the killing occurred in Spokane.

The prosecutor, D. Marc Hawes, had notes from the autopsy that reflected Palmer was strangled, not drowned; she was not sexually molested; a cut on her labia was caused significantly after death; her body had several post-mortem abrasions and wounds; no time of death could be established and there was no evidence the death occurred in Idaho. The medical examiner, Dr. George Elliott, confirmed these findings at deposition.

At trial, Elliott substantially changed his testimony. Now, Palmer was alive when she went into the water of the creek her body was found in; and the blood from the labia wound was washed away by the water. Despite Gibson?s trial testimony that Paradis was not present when Palmer was killed in Spokane, Paradis was convicted on Elliott?s testimony.

For fifteen years afterwards, the prosecution hid Haws? notes. In May 1996, Gibson made a public confession that he alone killed Palmer.
Paradis? death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Paradis was subsequently granted federal habeas relief based on the contradictions in the Haws notes and Elliott?s testimony.

After he was released on April 10, 2001, Paradis sued. Kootenai County settled that suit in August 2006, agreeing to pay Paradis $50,000 immediately and monthly payments of $3,500 for the next 11 years. See: Paradis v. Brady, USDC, D Idaho, Case No. Civ-03-0150-N-BLN.

Additional Source: Associated Press

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Related legal case

Paradis v. Brady