How Much Compensation for Wrongful Conviction
A Florida statute provides financial compensation for wrongfully convicted defendants who are later exonerated. However, due to technical provisions, only three individuals have seen any monetary recompense in the four years since the bill became law. If defendants have prior felony convictions or commit new crimes while in custody, they are excluded from the monetary compensation under the provisions of the law.
The law provides $50,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment for a maximum payout of $2 million. The payout for all three individuals has totaled just over $3 million thus far. The most recent payment, approved in July 2012, was for over $1.2 million to a defendant who spent 26 years in custody for several rapes he allegedly committed. He was exonerated in 2005 because of DNA testing.
A representative from the Innocence Project of Florida, an agency that helps exonerate the wrongfully convicted through DNA testing, commented on the technicalities. He believes that despite prior convictions, any person who is wrongfully imprisoned deserves compensation. He added that a person’s history should not affect a current wrongful incarceration. The state should pay the person despite their previous record. The Innocence Project also provides legal teams to assist the wrongfully convicted through the court process and was featured in a 2010 movie, “Conviction,” with Hilary Swank.
The “clean-hands” provision refers to a defendant’s lack of a prior criminal record. Six people in Florida since 2003 have been excluded from compensation because of this technicality although their wrongful conviction was confirmed through DNA testing. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 22 murder convicts in the state of Florida have been declared innocent since 1972. Only two have received compensation under the statute.
However, the Legislature has passed claims bills that have provided for the payment to at least three other innocent people who were excluded because of their past record. Others in similar situations may follow suit and also seek compensation.