WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A man who was wrongly convicted of child sex crimes in Sedwick County has won a lawsuit against the state.
Merardo J. Garza Jr. was convicted in 2008 of alternative counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and rape. He was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum sentence of 25 years. He served 13 years, five months and 27 days before his conviction was vacated in 2020.
The court determined that Garza did not commit the crime for which he was convicted, was not an accessory or accomplice to the crime, did not suborn perjury, fabricate evidence or cause or bring about his conviction through his own conduct.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said that on Jan. 20, Sedgwick County District Judge Seth Rundle approved the following relief for Garza, as provided by the mistaken-conviction statute:
- Garza was granted a Certificate of Innocence
- Records of his conviction and arrest were ordered expunged
- Garza was granted total compensation of $887,455.22
By statute, payment is subject to review by the State Finance Council. The council has not yet reviewed Garza’s case. Copies of the orders in the case of Garza v State of Kansas can be found at https://bit.ly/3qZdu2W.
From December 2018 through the present, 14 individuals have filed lawsuits against the State of Kansas under the mistaken-conviction statute. Of those, six have now reached judgment and payment has been made or is in process. In a seventh case, the district court ruled against the claimant, and the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed that no payment was owed. The eighth case was rejected at the district court level. Five other cases remain in litigation in district courts.