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$27M For 27 Years Is 'Vindication' For Wrongfully Imprisoned Man

Mark Schand scoops ice cream at his Sweetwater smoothie cafe in New Britain, Connecticut.
Karen Brown
Mark Schand scoops ice cream at his Sweetwater smoothie cafe in New Britain, Connecticut.

A Connecticut man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years said he’s delighted by the verdict in his lawsuit against four Springfield, Massachusetts, police officers — but not for the reason you might think.

Mark Schand was convicted in 1987 for a nightclub shooting in Springfield that killed a woman bystander. He was released in 2013 after new evidence that witnesses were coerced.

Schand was back in court this month to hear a jury award him $27 million — $1 million for every year in prison.

"Nothing's going to beat that verdict when I came home," he said, "but [this verdict] felt good. It felt really good."

Still, Schand is emphatic that the huge award means less to him than just holding people accountable for the grave injustice he suffered.

“It was vindiction. They put me in jail for almost three decades. No one apologized. No one acknowledged they did anything wrong,” he said. “So this [lawsuit] had nothing to do with the money that I don't have yet and don't know if I'm ever going to see." 

Schand got virtually no government help after he was released. He originally tried to sue the city of Springfield, but a judge determined he could only sue four individual officers, who are now retired.

Schand said his lawyers may appeal that decision, but he's tired of fighting.

“Just to be in the courtroom again and have to answer to anything in regards to a murder that you had absolutely nothing to do with. This has been grueling for me,” he said. “The emotions of it just brings back a lot a lot of bad things for me. I would love for this to be over with.”

Schand wants to move on with his life, and focus on his smoothie business in Connecticut. He used part of a previous $450,000 settlement from the state of Massachusetts to open his first smoothie shop.

“I'm in the process of opening up a second one now, possibly a third before the end of the winter,” he said.

Schand said he’s not making any plans for the $27 million civil award.

The attorney for Springfield, Ed Pikula, said the city is only on the hook for $1 million per officer — that's a total of $4 million — and is reviewing its options for appeal.

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.
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