Compensation For Death Row Time?

Gov. George Ryan Halted Executions In His State

Illinois Gov. George Ryan, whose moratorium on executions has cast a harsh new light on the death penalty, tells Mike Wallace that death row inmates found to be innocent deserve compensation.

Ryan spoke with Wallace in his first national television interview since announcing the Illinois moratorium. The report will air on 60 Minutes on Sunday, April 30. Nine former death row inmates whose innocence provoked the governor's moratorium -- also talk to Wallace in their first group interview since their releases.

"When you're the fellow that says we're going to inject this person and put him to death," says Ryan, "you have to be able to live with yourself"

As the newly elected governor, Ryan, a pro-death penalty Republican, began the moratorium because he couldn't live with the fact that 13 men on death row had been wrongfully convicted.

Now he believes those wrongly sentenced to death should be treated fairly. "To be innocent, sitting behind bars, they ought to be compensated very well," Ryan says.

That cannot satisfy the nine men Wallace talks to who spent years waiting to die for crimes they did not commit. "You can't compensate a man when you've erased his life," says Rolando Cruz, who was wrongly convicted of murdering a young woman. "Let me erase some years of the governor's life...So that's an insult."

Also insulting is the fact that, before any compensation can be sought, the men are required to ask for a pardon. "Pardon means forgive me. Excuse me? I'm sorry. No way," says Cruz.

Most of the nine men have received no compensation yet and find it difficult to get jobs and live normal lives. "I was a professional entertainer making pretty nice money," says Perry Cobb, mistakenly convicted of double murder. Now, he says he can't find a job. "[Jail time] is hooked on you the rest of your life... Anytime you got to be locked up and taken back and forth to court-- how can you be innocent?" asks Cobb.

Dennis Williams, wrongly convicted of murdering a couple, says death row destroys a person's confidence. "To be put on death row and treated like an compromises your competence to even hold a job," he says

Some could eventually get a payday, even a large one like the $12 million settlement Williams got for his wrongful prosecution suit. It's still not enough, says Williams. "For being kidnapped? For having my very soul raped?"