Wisconsin Introduces Improved Compensation Bills
Two bills to
compensate Wisconsin’s wrongly convicted
are gaining bipartisan support in the state where exonerees are currently compensated $5,000 for each year served in prison, with a maximum of five years. According to
Wisconsin Innocence Project
Co-Director Keith Findley, Wisconsin offers the smallest amount of compensation among the 29 states with similar statutes.
Wisconsin State Journal
reports that the first bill — Senate Bill 249 — would compensate
Robert Lee Stinson
an additional $90,000 for the 23 years he spent in prison after being wrongfully convicted of murder. Stinson was convicted based on the invalidated expert testimony of a bite-mark analyst whose conclusions were uncontested at trial. He was exonerated by DNA evidence in 2009 and is one of seven DNA exonerees in the state who will receive more than the $25,000 maximum he received from the Claims Board in 2010 only if Senate Bill 249, also known as the Stinson bill, is passed by the Legislature. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing before the Senate Committee Judiciary and Labor next week.
A second bill would increase the annual payout to $50,000. In addition to increasing the annual payout, the second bill would also require the state to provide health care coverage and immediate temporary assistance. It would also change the burden of proof from “clear and convincing evidence” to a “preponderance of evidence,” the same burden in other civil cases. The bill would be retroactive for exonerees released on or after January 1, 1990.
Wisconsin Innocence Project attorney Byron Lichstein, who will be at Tuesday’s hearing, is encouraged by the support for Stinson and all of the wrongly convicted. “ ‘I think it’s very significant,’ Lichstein said. ‘I think that what it shows is the subject of wrongful convictions is not a partisan issue. Anyone who has an interest in the government operating fairly and admitting when it makes mistakes should support this.’ ”
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