Saturday, March 05, 2011

Exonerees prevail in compensation suit vs. Comptroller

The State Supreme Court sided with exonerees in a lawsuit against the state Comptroller, who had disapproved portions of their compensation for false convictions because they were on probation or parole when falsely convicted of a different crime and revoked over the false allegations. Reports the Austin Statesman:
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.

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.
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.

See related coverage from the Supreme Court of Texas Blog, describing how precedents from the Tulia cases set the stage for yesterday's ruling.


Anonymous said...

This is a huge victory and goes a long way in bringing integrity back to the justice system in Texas. Hopefully, police and prosecuting attorneys will be slower to act on questionable evidence or allegations prior to making arrests, charging, and sending defendants down the river. Everyone makes mistakes. The true mark of a good man (or woman) is admitting the mistakes and making sure they do not recur. This is something hard-nosed police and prosecutors have a difficult time doing.

Cheri said...

I agree with Michael. However, I am doubtful that integrity will find it's way into the courtrooms across Texas. Politics prevails and no accountability for prosecutors will allow them to continue to convict innocent men. THESE MEN DESERVE EVERY SINGLE DIME OF THE $80,000 per year and more.

Hook Em Horns said...

This is a huge victory but it doesn't begin to bring integrity to the Texas justice system. It's a band-aid on a gunshot wound that the politicians have no desire to fix and the sheeple are content thinking they have actually done something by paying these people off.

Actually, it's a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

It's sad that people have to fight the state of Texas for their rights.

Anonymous said...

What's sad is crime finally pays.

Anonymous said...

This will do nothing to discourage police and prosecutors from convicting innocents. After all, the compensation doesn't come out of their pockets. Until they have a real fear of imprisonment themselves, cops, prosecutors (both with and without black robes) will continue turning a blind eye to justice in favor of enhancing their statistics.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't mean that there is integrity in the Texas Supreme Court.