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Kenneth Ireland awarded $6 million after 21 years in prison for wrongful conviction

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HARTFORD--A man has been awarded $6 million after serving more than 20 years for a wrongful conviction.

"I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. I literally, just an hour ago I found out, so I'm excited," Kenneth Ireland, 45, told Fox CT.

Ireland was convicted of rape and murder in 1989 and spent 21 years behind bars from ages 18 to 39. He initially spent five years at the maximum security Somers Prison, but was then transferred by Gov. Rowland to a maximum security prison in Virginia known for its bad treatment of inmates. He was eventually transferred again to a Suffield correctional facility, where he spent 21 hours a day in his cell.

In 1991, Ireland's conviction was reaffirmed by the Connecticut Supreme Court in 1991, and in 1999 Ireland failed to get his name cleared with DNA testing because the tests were inconclusive.

In 2007, the Connecticut Innocence Project took on his case. In their pursuit of the truth they requested DNA testing on various pieces of evidence, with which the state complied. The testing finally ruled out Ireland as the perpetrator in the crime, and his name was officially cleared by the Superior Court on August 10, 2009, at which point he was released from jail.

Ireland filed a claim with the Office of the Claims Commissioner, seeking damages upwards of $8 million.

"When you have a sexual assault charge, you have to really be on guard because, like I said before, you are usually made a target," he said at a July 2014 hearing about his claim.

On Thursday, Ireland became the first person in the state to get compensation for wrongful incarceration since the law was passed about seven years ago.

The breakdown of the $6 million awarded to him is as follows:

  • $2.5 million for loss of liberty and enjoyment of life
  • $1.5 million for loss of earnings and earning capacity
  • $300,000 for loss of reputation
  • $1.5 million for physical and mental injuries
  • $200,000 for costs and expenses (including attorney fees).

Ireland said he hopes to use the money to visit places like Egypt and Australia. "I'm just going to enjoy the rest of my life and, you know, hopefully do some traveling, see some things I only read about," he said.

At a news conference with his attorney, William Bloss, Ireland spoke about making up what he missed while living in an orange jumpsuit. "I want to be a professional adventurer, haha, if that was a job," Ireland said. "Bungee jumping, skydiving, motorcycles."

Bloss interjected, "From my perspective, he's sort of living his 20s. You know, he's living his early 20s." Ireland missed those years while imprisoned.

He said he appreciates the ruling from the claims commissioner and looks forward to leading a normal life.

"I live with my girlfriend who I love very much and I go to work everyday," he said.

The report from J. Paul Vance, the claims commissioner for Connecticut, said:

While this decision attempts to compensate Mr. Ireland for the time that he was wrongfully prisoned, no words or dollar amount will suffice to give him back the time that he lost and the misery that he endured. As the person who is tasked by the state of Connecticut with the assessment of damages for his claim, I offer my sincerest apologies to Mr. Ireland for the burden that he was forced to suffer and I wish him the best of luck.

In October, Gov. Dan Malloy appointed Ireland to be on the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles.

"We've been doing hearings since December and it's been going amazingly well," Ireland said. " Hopefully I'm bringing something to the board most people can't bring, and insight from the other side."

In March 2012, justice was finally served to the actual perpetrator of the rape and murder of Barbara Pelkey.

Related stories:

Kenneth Ireland Testifies On Being Wrongfully Imprisoned

Ireland To Testify About Wrongful Conviction, Negotiates With State Over Compensation

Kenneth Ireland, Wrongly Convicted and Imprisoned, Speaks