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Michigan Senate Votes To Compensate Exonerated Inmates

By David Eggert, Associated Press

LANSING (AP) - Exonerated inmates would be paid $50,000 for each year of their wrongful incarceration, along with attorney fees, under legislation approved unanimously Thursday by the Michigan Senate. It's a development that is encouraging to advocates who first proposed such payments a decade ago.

Michigan has released more innocent prisoners than all but four states. Just this week, 23-year-old Davontae Sanford was freed after serving eight years for a quadruple slaying in Detroit despite a professional hit man telling authorities he was responsible.

The compensation proposal "is doing the right thing," said bill sponsor Sen. Steve Bieda, a Warren Democrat.

"They come out and they have nothing, because they've lost their ability to make a living," he said. "They're dealing with depression and frankly just trying to get reintegrated, almost coming out of a time capsule."

Bieda said this is the first time such a measure has passed either chamber. The bill was sent to the House, where similar legislation has been pending on the floor for nearly a year. It came on the Republican-led Legislature's last session day before an extended summer break.

The Senate's unanimous vote "says a lot," said Bieda, who noted that Gov. Rick Snyder's administration has shown an interest in the issue.

Thirty other states provide the wrongfully convicted with financial support.

Of the 60 people who have been freed in Michigan since 1989, 26 — or fewer than half — would qualify for compensation under the bill, according to nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency, which cites data from the University of Michigan's Innocence Clinic.

Some would not qualify for money because they served simultaneous sentences for other crimes. Others would be ineligible because they successfully sued for civil rights damages, which can be a difficult slog since police and prosecutors often have immunity.

The minimum state cost would be $13.1 million. Checks could be issued in a single payment or be spread over a maximum of 10 years.


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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