CT Claim Commissioner resigns over controversy - WFSB 3 Connecticut

CT Claim Commissioner resigns over controversy

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J. Paul Vance, Jr. resigns as Connecticut's claim commissioner after wrongful death conviction award. (WFSB) J. Paul Vance, Jr. resigns as Connecticut's claim commissioner after wrongful death conviction award. (WFSB)

Connecticut's claim commissioner has resigned amid controversy over millions he gave in a wrongful death conviction award.

J Paul Vance, Jr. gave four men more than $16 million after they were released from prison on a technicality that occurred during their trial. But they were never proven innocent.

Lawmakers on Friday called for the commissioner to step down, unaware he already resigned.

Family members and friends of the victim were stunned that the four men convicted in the crimes were released from prison and given millions of dollars. 

"I feel that it's so wrong for somebody to be guilty and get paid for killing someone," said Robin Nelson, whose son was murdered.

In 1996, Jason Smith was murdered on a street in New Haven, which police described as a gang feud.

"It's so unfair for our law to let us down, to award these guys that we know and even they know, that these guys killed her son," said Bernadette Barbour, who is a family friend.

During the trial, a key prosecution witness misled jurors by not telling them he was offered a reduced sentence on a prior arrest.

The four men were released and were given $4 million dollars each in wrongful death conviction awards by Connecticut's claim commissioner Vance.

"I think commissioner Vance doesn't belong in that position and if the governor wants to keep him in that position put him through the process," said State Sen. Len Fasano.

Vance wrote a letter to the governor a week ago and stated that he was leaving to return to practicing law.

He also wrote this regarding the controversy, "it was not an easy decision, but a fair call based on the evidence. There would be nothing I would change."

Others compensated for wrongful convictions were proven innocent. James Tillman was exonerated through DNA testing.

Lawmakers said the system isn't working and said the legislature should weigh in on cases involving awards.

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