A Denver Senator has proposed legislation that would compensate wrongfully convicted individuals for time that they have spent in prison. If such a bill were to pass, Colorado would join 27 other states that have passed similar legislation.
The reason why such legislation has been proposed is because a number of individuals have been exonerated by DNA evidence. This includes one individual that was imprisoned for more than a decade for a sexual assault and murder that he did not commit. This incident was followed by another where a prisoner, just released in April after 17 years of imprisonment, was wrongly convicted of murder.
The range of compensation in other states varies from a flat fee of $20,000 to another state that will pay $80,000 per year for every year served. Such a sum does not seem outlandish when one thinks about the price paid due to a wrongful conviction.
Wrongful convictions are particularly common when accusations involve sexual assault and murder. Yet imprisoning someone for a crime that they’ve never committed can result in injustice on a number of levels. We then have an innocent person doing time for a crime that he or she never committed, an innocent person in sitting in jail, and a crime that remains unsolved, and we have a guilty party roaming the streets and free to commit other crimes.
Criminal defense attorneys will defend clients against wrongful accusations, and will also make every effort to prevent unreliable evidence from being admitted. The cost of a wrongful conviction is simply too high. The presumption in criminal matters always has been that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
Source: Law Week Colorado, “Denver Senator Considers Help for Wrongfully Convicted,” by James Carlson, August 6, 2012