Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wisconsin Exoneree is Compensated with Only $25K After Spending Over a Decade Behind Bars, Demonstrating the Need for State Compensation Reforms

Michigan currently has a bill in the legislature that would provide compensation for innocence people who serve time in prison. This bill should be passed even though the state has NO money. It is a matter of simple justice. The system failed these people in the worst way. Most of those exonerated who do not get compensation have a very hard time picking up the pieces and getter on with their life.

Chaunte Ott served more than 12 years in Wisconsin prisons for a murder he didn’t commit before DNA testing obtained by the Wisconsin Innocence Project proved his innocence and led to his release in early 2009. The post-conviction DNA testing on evidence found on Payne showed that someone else committed the crime.

This week, the state Claims Board has awarded Ott with $25,000 to compensate him for being wrongfully convicted of murdering 16-year-old Jessica Payne – a sum far less than what he is entitled to and an amount wholly inadequate to compensate for his years of suffering.

And Ott is not the only one. Statistics show that 81% of the first 240 DNA exonerees who have been compensated under state laws similar to Wisconsin’s received far less than the federal standard created through the Innocence Protection Act of 2004, which is $50,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment and $100,000 per year on death row.

Wisconsin law states that a wrongfully convicted person "who did not by his or her act or failure to act contribute to bring about the conviction and imprisonment for which he or she seeks compensation" can receive a maximum of $25,000, including attorneys fees, as long as the claimant did not contribute to or bring about conviction. The Claims Board may petition legislature for additional funds.

Months after Ott was exonerated, investigators matched the same sample along with DNA from eight other murders to Walter Ellis. Ellis was charged with seven of those murders, but has yet to be charged for murdering Payne. Two of the murders were committed after Ott was arrested.

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