A California board voted today to award $30,000 in compensation to James Ochoa for the 10 months he spent in prison for a carjacking he didn’t commit. Ochoa was exonerated in 2006 when DNA testing on evidence from the crime scene proved his innocence. He pled guilty to the crime to avoid the possibility of a long sentence if convicted at trial.
California law provides $100 per day of wrongful incarceration, but only if the defendant did not “contribute to the bringing about of his arrest or conviction.” A hearing officer’s report submitted to the board argued that Ochoa should be denied compensation because his guilty plea brought about his wrongful conviction. The board voted in favor of granting the compensation, however.
"Every step of the way James had been screwed by government authorities. Finally, this board stood up and did the right thing," Ochoa lawyer Scott Borthwick said immediately after the hearing.
. (OC Weekly blog, 04/23/08)
An author of the compensation law and the state innocence commission
have both said
that the “guilty plea loophole” needs to be removed to ensure that people like Ochoa don’t need to argue for compensation in future cases.