John Stoll Awarded 5.5 Million

[Note: Friends of Justice is a personal blog. I speak only for myself.]

In Bakersfield, California, Kern County’s Board of Supervisors has agreed to settle for $5.5 million a federal lawsuit filed by John Stoll, now 66, whose molestation conviction was overturned in 2004 after he spent 20 years in prison. Michael Snedeker, President of NCRJ, together with attorneys for two California Innocence Projects, filed the case for Mr. Stoll in Fresno, California, in 2005. Stoll was one of 46 people charged in eight alleged “child sex rings” in Kern County between 1982 and 1985. He was the last in custody when his conviction was overturned. The cases fell apart as witnesses recanted their testimony and investigators’ techniques were shown to have created rather than discovered the cases. “At first,” said Snedeker, “We thought the cases were the product of overzealous but well-meaning people. But when we found tapes of interviews that supposedly did not exist, showing the use of techniques they swore were not used, we saw corruption – a deliberate trampling of Mr. Stoll’s rights and wrongful deprivation of his liberty, as well as the infliction of harm on the very children defendants were charged with protecting.”

Stoll’s case along with the other Kern County ‘ring” cases were the subject of the documentary “Witch Hunt”, produced and narrated by actor Sean Penn, released last fall and shown on MSNBC in April.

“It’s a sad situation for everyone involved, particularly for a man who lost 20 years of his life,” Kern County Supervisor Don Maben said of Stoll. “Hopefully we’ve learned enough that it won’t happen again.”