Florida lawmakers voted on Tuesday to advance a bill compensating the wrongfully convicted for each year they spent in prison before their exoneration, but restrictions on the bill exclude too many people. The bill would pay some exonerees $50,000 per year served, but it excludes anyone with a prior felony conviction. This would include Alan Crotzer, who spent almost 25 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit. He was convicted of stealing beer from a convenience store before his wrongful conviction, and that would disqualify him. Crotzer will be paid $1.25 million by the state after lawmakers passed a bill specifically written for him. While the Innocence Project has commended Florida legislators for addressing this important issue, the provision about unrelated prior felony convictions falls far short of the state’s obligation to compensate the wrongfully convicted.
Eric Ferrero, spokesman for the national Innocence Project, said the clean hands provision is a ”fatal flaw.” He said that of the 23 states that have compensation laws for the wrongfully incarcerated, none disqualify people based on unrelated prior felony convictions.
”Prior convictions have nothing to do with the fact that an innocent person was wrongfully convicted,” Ferrero said. “They have paid their debt to society for prior convictions but society has not paid its debt to them for a separate and unrelated wrongful conviction.”
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. (Miami Herald, 04/29/08)
In other news, California exoneree James Ochoa has reached a tentative settlement in his lawsuit against Buena Park, California for his wrongful conviction. Ochoa spent 10 months in prison for a carjacking he didn’t commit before DNA cleared him. He also received approval recently to receive $30,000 in state compensation.
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