The highest settlement ever paid in the history of the state of Kentucky was to the family of a man who served 28 years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit.
In the three decades after the murder of a Veterans Administration nurse in Newport, Kentucky in 1987, William Virgil has maintained his innocence. According to the Courier-Journal, the city of Newport ultimately resolved his false conviction last week with a record-setting $28 million pretrial payment. The agreement was reached more than a year after Virgil passed away in a Cincinnati hotel room the night before an examination. He had been ailing ever since being released from prison.
While Virgil didn’t live to receive his hefty settlement, his family is set to receive $28 million to settle his wrongful conviction lawsuit. It equates to $1 million for each year Virgil spent behind bars.
“William couldn’t live long enough to see justice,” Virgil’s attorney Elliot Slosar said. “William as a human being and William’s case will have caused a significant change in the criminal justice system.”
Retha Welch, 54, a grandmother from Newport and a prison minister, was raped and fatally stabbed in her residence in 1987. This led to the erroneous conviction. The DNA testing that Virgil wanted revealed that three semen samples did not match the man who was convicted of the rape and murder, despite the fact that Virgil had always maintained his innocence. His conviction was reversed in 2015, nevertheless.
In 2016, Virgil sued the city and the police for wrongful conviction, and his civil trial was initially scheduled for 2021. However, it was postponed so that the police could appeal, according to WCPO. He ultimately passed away prior to the agreement being achieved.
“We’ve spent the last half decade trying to show how William was framed for a crime he didn’t commit,” Slosar said. “Our team did dozens of depositions and we got documents from all these police departments that were never turned over, and eventually, we were granted a trial.”
– Steve Sijenyi