News 06.30.11

Colorado Commissioners Won’t Limit Compensation for Wrongfully Convicted

Three commissioners in Larimer County, Colorado, voted against limiting compensation from a local government for the wrongfully convicted.

The decision was made hours before Tim Masters, who was wrongfully convicted of a 1987 rape and spent nearly a decade in prison, was formally exonerated Tuesday, reported the Coloradoan.

Those in favor of the compensation cap cited an effort to save taxpayers’ money, but the Commissioner Steve Johnson said that wasn’t the way to go about it.

The best way to avoid paying out for wrongful incarcerations is to not let them happen, he said. Those in the judicial system have to make every effort to ensure innocent people are not convicted, he said.

“It just seems to me that having a high award possibility is almost like a deterrent to law enforcement and everybody else,” he said.

Masters’ conviction was vacated in 2008 based on DNA evidence, and he received a combined $10 million settlement from Larimer County and the city of Fort Collins last year to settle a lawsuit over his wrongful conviction.

Commissioner Lew Gaiter said if the actions of law enforcement or prosecutors end up costing the county through payouts and higher insurance premiums, the money should come out their budgets.

“There has to be some repercussions for that,” he said. “If the government can’t be held accountable for what they do wrong, how can we expect to hold the citizens accountable for what they do wrong?”

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