Nevada Governor Signs the Strongest Compensation Law in the Country
06.15.19 By Innocence Staff
Nevada is 35th state to enact compensation
Las Vegas, NV – Today Governor Steve Sisolak signed a law to compensate innocent Nevadans who were wrongfully incarcerated for crimes they did not commit (Assembly Bill 267). Nevada is the 35th state in the nation to enact a compensation law to help the wrongfully convicted rebuild their lives after exoneration.
DeMarlo Berry, who spent 23 years in prison for a Las Vegas murder he did not commit, advocated for the legislation and attended the bill signing ceremony. On June 30, 2017 Berry was exonerated based on a confession from the real perpetrator and other new evidence of his innocence, with the help of the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center and the Clark County District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit. Berry, who has not received any financial assistance since his release, will be eligible for compensation under the new law.
This experience makes me feel proud that Nevada is my home.
Assembly Bill 267 was authored by Assemblyman Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) and received bipartisan support in the legislature. A diverse coalition advocated for the new law including Attorney General Aaron Ford, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, the Innocence Project, ACLU-Nevada, Rocky Mountain Innocence Center, the Clark and Washoe County Public Defenders, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, and Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice.
The new law:
- Provides financial compensation based on the amount of time the exoneree was wrongfully imprisoned. 1-10 years= $50,000 per year of wrongful incarceration; 10-20 years= $75,000 per year of wrongful incarceration; 20 or more years= $100,000 per year of wrongful incarceration.
- Offers non-monetary services including health care, tuition, community reentry & counseling.
- Provides a certificate of innocence and expungement of criminal records, so exonerees can clear their names and move on with their lives.
- Contains an offset provision for any federal civil awards/settlements: To protect taxpayers, exonerees who receive state compensation and later win federal civil rights lawsuits/settlements stemming from their wrongful conviction would be required to reimburse the state for the difference, and vice versa.
“I am truly humbled by all the lawmakers and advocates who came together to do the right thing and make this law strong and effective,” said DeMarlo Berry. “I want to thank Assemblyman Yeager and McCurdy who led the way on this issue, and the many state Senators and Assemblymembers who took a stand and signed onto the bill. This experience makes me feel proud that Nevada is my home.”
Nevada enacted the strongest exoneree compensation law in the country to date, and is a model for other states.
“AB 267 recognizes that our justice system, while the best in the world, is far from perfect. When that system fails and leads to wrongful incarceration, sometimes for decades, the state must do what it can to right the wrong,” said Assemblyman Yeager. “The financial compensation and other services offered by AB267 can never make up for lost time, but it is the least the state can do to help exonerated people get their lives back on track. It is simply the right thing to do, and I was proud to sponsor AB267.”
“Nevada enacted the strongest exoneree compensation law in the country to date, and is a model for other states,” said Michelle Feldman, State Campaigns Director for the Innocence Project, a national non-profit that exonerates the wrongfully convicted with DNA. “This new measure provides a fair amount of compensation for each year that an innocent person unjustly spent in prison, while protecting taxpayers.”
“I’m honored to have supported Assembly Bill 267,” said Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford. “At the Office of the Attorney General, our job is justice. Justice sometimes manifests itself in circumstances like this, where someone wrongfully convicted through the best legal system in the world – a system that is still fallible – receives recompense. While nothing will repair what Mr. Berry experienced after being wrongfully incarcerated for 23 years, this bill will help his family find a way to move forward.”
“The criminal justice system has a real impact on the lives of working families and wrongful convictions disproportionately impact communities of color. A fair an accountable system protects individual rights and makes us all safer,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer of the Culinary Union. “The Culinary Union is proud to be a member of the Nevada Coalition for the Wrongfully Convicted to fight for the change we want to see. We thank the Governor for signing this bill today.”
ABOUT THE CULINARY UNION:
Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165, Nevada affiliates of UNITE HERE, represent 60,000 workers in Las Vegas and Reno, including at most of the casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip and in Downtown Las Vegas. UNITE HERE represents 300,000 workers in gaming, hotel, and food service industries in North America.
The Culinary Union, through the Culinary Health Fund, is one of the largest healthcare consumers in the state. The Culinary Health Fund is sponsored by the Culinary Union and Las Vegas-area employers. It provides health insurance coverage for over 130,000 Nevadans, the Culinary Union’s members and their dependents.
The Culinary Union is Nevada’s largest immigrant organization with members who come from 178 countries and speak over 40 different languages. We are proud to have helped over 18,000 immigrants become American citizens and new voters since 2001 through our affiliate, The Citizenship Project.
The Culinary Union has a diverse membership — approximately 55% women, 54% Latinx, 19% White, 15% Asian, 10% Black, and less than 1% Indigenous Peoples — and consists of guest room attendants, cocktail and food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks, bartenders, laundry and kitchen workers. The Culinary Union has been fighting for fair wages, job security, and good health benefits for workers in Nevada for 84 years.