Texas Compensation Could be Retroactive
As we’ve written
, a bill awaiting the signature of Texas Gov. Rick Perry would increase the amount of state compensation paid to the exonerated upon their release and would also pay exonerees for time they served on parole. But the bill would also assist a group that has been eligible for no compensation under state law – those exonerated before the state passed its first compensation law in 2001.
When Joyce Ann Brown and Lenell Geter were cleared in Texas (by evidence other than DNA) in the 1980s, they were not eligible for state compensation. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, who sponsored the bill and serves as the Innocence Project Board Chairman, has said parts of the bill are retroactive and that he will reach out to people who are potentially eligible.
Brown served more than nine years of a life sentence for a 1980 robbery and murder at a fur shop. She was released in late 1989.
Geter served 16 months of a life sentence for a 1982 wrongful conviction for the armed robbery of fast-food businesses. He was cleared in 1984.
"When I was released, you had to fight [to be compensated]. … I have never received a dime," said Brown, who founded and directs Mothers (Fathers) for the Advancement of Social Systems (MASS), a nonprofit that helps former prisoners re-enter society. She co-wrote the book Joyce Ann Brown: Justice Denied.
Geter sued former Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, other authorities and municipalities including Greenville, where he was arrested. He received what he described as a small out-of-court settlement representing "about a year's salary" – close to the $24,000 he earned as a 26-year-old engineer in Greenville when arrested in 1982.
His and Brown's eligibility under the new bill, though uncertain, would be a salve on old wounds, said Geter, who now is a motivational speaker, youth mentor and the father of three daughters in Columbia, S.C. He wrote the book Overcome, Succeed & Prosper.
Read the full story here
. (Dallas Morning News, 5/20/09)
Also pending in Texas is a bill to create a state innocence commission to review wrongful convictions and evaluate reforms to address the causes of injustice. A bill creating the commission has passed the House and is pending in the Senate.
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