Donya Davis of Detroit describes the day he was declared innocent of a rape he didn’t commit as “great,” filled with family and excitement. But in the year following his exoneration, Davis says he’s had to confront an onslaught of financial challenges, a problem all too common among the wrongfully convicted in the United States. In response, Davis is joining efforts with other local exonerees to demand more from the state.
In this week’s addition of
and its accompanying radio show “City Pulse on the Air,” Davis speaks about the dire financial situation he’s facing. Since his release and exoneration last summer, he has not been able to secure permanent work. He would like to attend culinary school, but doesn’t have the money to do so. And for nearly every job to which he’s applied, he’s told that his wrongful conviction will raise too many questions.
Donya lives with his mother for the time being but says he feels obligated to assist her financially; she mortgaged her house and spent all of her money on his defense for his 2006 trial. To make matters worse, Michigan provides absolutely no compensation to exonerees. “I’m hurting bad. . .,” says Davis, according to
Davis is not alone. More than 50 people in Michigan have been exonerated of crimes they didn’t commit. This summer, with the help of state legislators, Davis and some of the other Michigan-based exonerees are calling for change.
In May, a group of six exonerees gathered at the state capitol for a hearing on Senate Bill 291 and House Bill 4536, measures that would compensate eligible exonerees $60,000 for each year spent in prison, in addition to lost wages and attorney fees. The measures are co-sponsored in the Senate by Steve Bieda (D-Warren) and Rick Jones, (R- Grand Ledge), and in the House by Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit).
“There´s a great deal of potential to pass the House and Senate and go all the way,” Jones tells
But, as the saying goes, seeing is believing.
reports that Bieda has already introduced the bill three times in both the House and the Senate. The senator doesn’t understand why it’s taken the state so long to pass the bill.
In the mean time, Davis is working as a physical trainer to keep his head above water. He’s focusing his energy on raising his kids and trying to remain positive.
“I have to be upbeat,” says Davis. But he concedes, “On the inside, I die. Every morning, I get up and I force this smile and I go,” Davis says to
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