Monday’s edition of
The Indianapolis Star
’s “Stolen Freedom” series focused on the plight of Indiana exonerees who often struggle upon release from prison. No programs currently exist in the state to assist wrongfully convicted residents as they adjust to life on the outside, and the state has no compensation statute. Indiana exonerees must rely on family and friends for help during this challenging transition and must resort to civil litigation for compensation for their years of wrongful incarceration.
Kristine Bunch served 17 years in prison for arson and murder until forensic evidence proved she did not set the fire that killed her son. After her release in 2012, she was tasked with restarting her life from scratch. Fortunately, Bunch had help from family and friends but, as she told the
, a little help from the state would have been appreciated.
“It would’ve been really cool to have, you know, a session or two to learn how to revamp my resume, use my prison experience as job experience,” Bunch told the
. “Instead, I had to seek out those people on my own, and figure out how to rework that time (in prison) into something that I could use and say, ‘Hey, I’ve acquired some experiences,’ instead of having this big hole.”
Indiana lags behind other states not only in terms of wrongful conviction compensation, but also in eyewitness identification procedures and evidence preservation laws. The state has not adopted the procedures recommended by the Innocence Project to avoid wrongful convictions, including double-blind lineups. The state also lacks a law requiring the preservation of crime scene evidence. Such evidence can legally be destroyed unless the defendant has already petitioned for testing.
“It’s important that the evidence be preserved because science changes,” Indiana University Law Professor Fran Watson told the
. “If science is going to continue to evolve, you would want a strong law about what you keep or don’t keep and how you keep it and how long you keep it.”