A woman freed after being convicted of killing her Marine husband is fighting back by suing the prosecutors and investigators that went after her, but she says it’s not about the money.
"People need to be held accountable for the actions that they've taken,” Cynthia Sommer said.( Fri Sep 25 08:46:23 PDT 2009 $__output )
Sommer spent more than two years in jail, charged with poisoning her 23-year-old husband to cash in on his military death benefit. She was convicted in 2007 but a year later was granted a new trial.
The government dropped its case in April 2008 when new tests showed no arsenic in Todd Sommer's preserved tissues. Sommer walked out of prison with a smile. But today, she says she's still not free.
"Every person, every friend I meet, every place I go, I wonder, is someone looking at me because they know what's happened? Are they judging me?"
Sommer’s lawyers filed a $20 million civil lawsuit on Thursday against the Federal Government, the County Medical Examiner and the District Attorney's Office claiming that conviction violated her civil rights and now follows her everywhere.
"Mistakes were made by someone. So, I'm not surprised there's a lawsuit," Cal Western Law Professor Justin Brooks said.
Even if mistakes are proven, Brooks says suing the government can sometimes take years.
"Oh, it's certainly more difficult to sue government agents and in a way, we want it to be that way because we don't want constantly the government employees to be worrying about being sued," he said.
Sommer insists the lawsuit is about more than money.
"It's about making sure this doesn't happen again to myself or anyone else," she said.
Because Sommer was never actually acquitted, she could be charged again. A hearing on that matter will be held Friday.
"You know, it's like you start to feel like things are getting better, and then something happens and it's like you're starting at square one," she said.
The District Attorney's office did not want to comment on the lawsuit.