The Texas House passed an amended bill today to improve the state law compensating the wrongfully convicted after their release. The new bill, which would become law with a signature from Gov. Rick Perry, pays exonerees $80,000 per year they spent in prison for crimes they didn’t commit and includes credit for tuition at state colleges and universities. The bill would also pay $25,000 per year an exoneree spent outside of prison on parole for a crime they didn't commit – a first in the nation. An earlier version of the bill also included health care, but that was removed in a Senate amendment.
The bill would represent a significant increase in compensation paid to the exonerated, from the current law, which provides $50,000 per year. Texas is one of 27 states with exoneree compensation laws,
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The legislation is named for Timothy Cole, who was posthumously exonerated this year after DNA proved that he had been wrongfully convicted in 1986. He died of a heart attack in prison in 1999 and DNA testing finally proved his innocence in 2008.
"It is a landmark bill," (Innocence Project Co-Director Barry) Scheck said. "For a fixed damage award, it's the highest in the country."
Read more about today’s developments
. (Associated Press 5/14/09)
CBS Evening News reported on Cole’s case and the Timothy Cole Compensation Act on Saturday:
In 1985, a serial rapist attacked five women near Texas Tech University. Among his victims was then 20-year old sophomore Michelle Mallin.
"It's constantly in my mind all the time," Mallin said recently.
Cole, a 25-year-old college student was convicted, largely because Mallin identified his picture in a photo lineup.
"I honestly thought it looked like him," she said.
Read the full story and watch the video here
. (CBS Evening News, 5/9/09)