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Joseph Jackson
On April 30, 2008, police in Camden, New Jersey, arrested 20-year-old Joseph Jackson and charged him with two counts of unlawful weapon possession and three counts of possession of a controlled substance.

Jackson entered a non-guilty plea in Camden County Superior Court. On July 11, 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm and Explosives opened an investigation into Jackson’s possible violation of federal gun laws prohibiting convicted felons to possess a weapon. The case was transferred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey, and a federal grand jury indicted Jackson on September 9, 2008, on illegal possession of a weapon.

Jackson pled guilty to the charge in U.S. District Court on February 9, 2009, and received a sentence of 21 months in prison. As part of the plea agreement, the government said it would pursue charges against Jackson related to the cocaine that the Camden police officers said they found on him during the arrest.

On March 19, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice began bringing indictments against five Camden officers, charging them with a wide range of crimes and civil-rights violations, including planting evidence, falsification of reports, perjury and theft. The indictments followed an investigation by the FBI into the department after the Camden County Office of the Public Defender asked the Camden police department’s Internal Affairs unit to examine complaints about officer misconduct more vigorously. In later litigation, plaintiffs alleged that the officers’ actions went undetected because of a breakdown in internal affairs, which was understaffed and used antiquated systems.

Three of the officers – Kevin Parry, Jason Stetser, and their supervisor, Dan Morris – pled guilty. The other two –Antonio Figueroa and Robert Bayard – went to trial. Figueroa was convicted; Bayard was acquitted.

Even before the first indictment against the officers, the Camden County Prosecutor had begun filing motions to vacate convictions and dismiss charges against defendants whose convictions were tainted by the apparent misconduct. Rather than waiting for individuals to come forward, the prosecutor’s office audited cases and then dismissed those that relied on the testimony or reports of the officers. As word of the dismissals spread, other potential victims of the officers’ misconduct came forward. Ultimately, judges threw out convictions and granted dismissals for more than 50 defendants.

A federal judge vacated Jackson’s conviction and dismissed his charge on May 19, 2010. He was released from prison the next day.

Following the indictments, defendants began filing lawsuits against the city and the officers for violations of their civil rights. The lead lawsuit was filed on July 29, 2010 by the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Joel Barnes. It was eventually joined with lawsuits filed in state and federal court by Jackson and 86 other persons, including several who were never convicted and had their charges dismissed after the misconduct by the officers was brought to light.

In his lawsuit, Jackson said he was walking home from a friend’s house when Stetser and several other officers confronted him, shoving a gun in his face and asking Jackson whether the weapon was his. Jackson said it wasn’t. Jackson said the officers beat him, hitting him in the eye and the mouth and causing him to lose consciousness. The officers then took Jackson to a local hospital for treatment. He was released into police custody and arrested on the drugs and weapon charges.

The lawsuits were settled on January 10, 2013, with the defendants sharing $3.5 million. Separately, 14 defendants also received compensation totaling $516,000 from the State of New Jersey for their wrongful convictions. It is not known if Jackson received compensation.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 8/19/2022
Last Updated: 8/19/2022
Most Serious Crime:Weapon Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2008
Sentence:21 months
Age at the date of reported crime:20
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No