George Rodriguez, 48, gained his freedom in 2004 after DNA tests discredited the findings of the troubled Houston Police Department crime lab on his case. By that time, he had served nearly two decades in prison. His father had died. His daughters faced abuse from men their mother lived with.
“Ain’t no amount of money is going to even my scale,” Rodriguez said after hearing the verdict. “I lost my dad and my girls have been through hell. I am grateful, but no money could replace what I lost.”
I find it hard to disagree with this interpretation of the jury's message:
“This verdict says what I think we all know to be true about the Houston Police Department crime lab,” said Barry Scheck, one of Rodriguez’s lawyers and a co-founder of the Innocence Project, which helped secure his release from prison. “They convicted innocent men and the city was indifferent.”
The Texas Legislature this year approved and the Governor signed into law an expanded compensation package for innocent people who've been falsely convicted (HB 1736 by Anchia/Ellis), a bill I lobbied for on behalf of the Innocence Project of Texas. But those affected must choose whether to accept the state compensation or sue, as Rodriguez did.
Under the new statute, Rodriguez would have been awarded $80,000 per year incarcerated (about $1.36 million) plus a like amount stretched out over a lifetime annuity, totaling a little over half the amount the jury awarded. But Rodriguez won't get paid yet and there's a significant chance the size of the verdict could be reduced by the Fifth Circuit on appeal.