12/14/07 — Judge adjusts claim for support

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Judge adjusts claim for support

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on December 14, 2007 2:24 PM

Only part of the state compensation owed exonerated former inmate Dwayne Dail can go to his child's biological mother, his attorney says.

Judge David Brantley ordered Thursday that the statute of limitations on Dail's child support responsibility is the past three years, attorney Shelby Benton said.

In ruling on Mrs. Benton's motions to dismiss the case, Brantley held Dail is not responsible for any child support after that period, Mrs. Benton said.

That means the biological mother of his child, Lorraine Michaels, can only get a portion of the $360,000 the state owes Dail for wrongful incarceration.

State law holds that people in prison are not liable for child support payments.

Mrs. Benton thinks Brantley will consider only August to October, the only portion of time in the past three years that Dail spent out of lockup.

"I think the law is in our favor," Mrs. Benton said. "It's a very complicated domestic issue. This is a case that's never been heard before, never happened in North Carolina.

Mrs. Benton was in private practice when she served as Dail's court-appointed attorney in a 1989 rape conviction since overturned by DNA evidence.

A Goldsboro rape victim singled out Dail after seeing him in her neighborhood following the crime.

Goldsboro police investigators say they are still looking into who actually climbed through a window and raped a 12-year-old victim in 1987, using the same evidence that exonerated Dail.

Court officials said Mrs. Benton is assigned to draft the order, which will then be reviewed by Ms. Michaels' attorney, Sarah L. Heekin.

Brantley will then consider the evidence and make a decision, Mrs. Benton said.

Christine Mumma is the N.C. Center for Actual Innocence lawyer who helped to free Dail with evidence found stowed away at the Goldsboro police department.

Ms. Mumma said this morning that she wasn't surprised by Brantley's ruling. She still represents Dail, but recommended that Mrs. Benton take over in family law proceedings.

"The statute of limitations being three years is no surprise -- there's settled case law on that," Ms. Mumma said. "What's surprising is anyone with family law background would have asked for the (full) 18 years in the first place."

She said Dail's payments from the state are not traditional income.

"I think it's settled that the compensation awarded to people who are wrongfully convicted is not back wages. It covers pain and suffering, legal fees, and any type of DNA testing expenses that were incurred. I'm pretty confident the number is pretty close to zero."

Ms. Heekin could not immediately be reached for comment this morning.

Mrs. Benton said she is waiting patiently on investigators who took DNA sampling that she said implicates a man currently incarcerated on another crime.

"Hopefully charges will be forthcoming," Ms. Mumma said. "I think the only problem is it was 19 years since that evidence was collected. I don't think there's a problem as much as they want to make sure that it's a completely solid case.

"Everyone wants the perpetrator to pick up Dwayne's two life sentences where Dwayne left off."

Dail also could not immediately be reached for comment.