Man seeks millions from Connecticut for wrongful murder conviction

Lawyers said Kenneth Ireland, convicted as a teenager in 1988 of a rape and murder he did not commit, deserves up to $8 million in compensation from Connecticut.
By Frances Burns  |  July 29, 2014 at 5:42 PM
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HARTFORD, Conn., July 29 (UPI) -- A man who was imprisoned at 18 for a rape and murder he did not commit told a Connecticut official Tuesday he expected to die in prison.

Kenneth Ireland's lawyers say he should receive between $5.5 million and $8 million for the 21 years he spent behind bars. Ireland testified about his experience before Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance, saying he never expected to be released.

"I was resigned I was going to die in prison, either of old age or more likely, in a violent altercation," he said.

Ireland was cleared in 2009 of the 1986 rape and murder of Barbara Pelkey.

Connecticut has agreed to the general range determined by Ireland's lawyers.

DNA testing pointed to another suspect. Kevin Benefield, a New York man who worked at a catering company in the same industrial park where Pelkey was a night-shift worker, was convicted of her murder in 2012 and sentenced to 60 years.

Michael Lefebrve, a lawyer for the Innocence Project, described the difficulties Ireland faced, going to prison as a teenage Subway employee and emerging as a man of 39. He said he took Ireland to a restaurant immediately after the hearing in New Haven where he was released.

"In this restaurant there was a large mirror and as he stood in front of this mirror, he just stared. He said 'I didn't recognize the old man in the mirror,'" Lefebvre said.

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