The Texas Supreme Court on Friday ordered the state to pay $2.7 million to three wrongly convicted Texans who spent, in total, 52 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.There's another extant case, that of Anthony Graves, where the Comptroller has denied compensation claims, forcing the exoneree into court to get the money coming to him. Texas' compensation statute was created in part to avoid expensive civil litigation when innocent people are falsely convicted, but litigation can only be avoided if the Comptroller pays out as it should in clear cases of actual innocence.
Wrongly convicted Texans may collect $80,000 for every year in prison, but Comptroller Susan Combs' office ruled that the three men were ineligible for full compensation because they had been on parole for prior crimes when they were imprisoned.
But a unanimous Supreme Court said Combs' office was too restrictive in applying the law, enacted in 1965 and updated in 2009 to compensate exonerated convicts for the emotional, physical and economic toll of prison.
Being on parole did not disqualify the men from full compensation, the opinion by Justice David Medina said.
See related coverage from the Supreme Court of Texas Blog, describing how precedents from the Tulia cases set the stage for yesterday's ruling.