ATLANTA — After years of failed attempts at establishing a uniformed procedure to pay those who have spent time in prison for a wrongful conviction, Georgia may soon join 38 other states that have established uniform protocol to compensate exonerees.

The Wrongful Conviction Compensation Act (HB 364) would establish a panel that would recommend compensation for someone who has been exonerated of a crime.

Currently, an exoneree must lobby a state legislator to sponsor a private resolution, which is often a lengthy and inconsistent process, if compensation is approved at all.

The National Registry of Exonerations reports that of the nearly 3,000 exonerations that have occurred in the country since 1989, 61% were due to perjury or false accusation, and 56% involved official misconduct from police or prosecutors.

"In Georgia, since 1989, 47 people have been exonerated as being innocent and they lost a total of 538 years," said Democrat state Rep. Scott Holcomb, who sponsored the bill. "Those were years that they were spent incarcerated or away from their loved ones, away from their ability to make a living. This idea is to compensate these individuals and to set forth a structure whereby experts will make a determination of innocence and then make a recommendation for compensation."

The proposal stipulates that the panel can recommend $100,000 per year incarcerated, but no less than $50,000 per year over a period of time, and can be adjusted for inflation.

The committee’s suggestions for each exoneree that is to receive compensation would all be included in one general appropriations bill for a court budget item, and the general assembly would vote on the singular appropriations line item, Holcomb explained.

HB 364 passed on Crossover Day (Monday) in a 157-17 vote. Crossover Day is the deadline for bills to clear at least one legislative chamber to remain alive this session.

The proposal passed last year in the House in a 157-11 vote, but did not make it to the floor for a Senate vote before the end of the session.

Georgia House members also approved four resolutions that would compensate four men who have been exonerated:

• HR 48 would compensate Mario Stinchcomb and HR 49 would compensate Michael Woolfolk. Both men were exonerated after spending 18 years as co-defendants in an Atlanta murder case that was recently found to be self defense. Stinchcomb’s resolution was approved 154-13 and Woolfolk’s resolution was approved 157-14.

• HR 55 would compensate Terry Talley, who was wrongly convicted of sexual assault in a case in LaGrange. He spent nearly 26 years in prison, and while in custody, a reinvestigation and DNA evidence cleared Talley of the crime. Talley’s resolution was approved 158-12.

• HR 70 would compensate Devonia Inman, who was wrongly convicted of murdering a Taco Bell Adel. He spent approximately 23 years in prison. Representatives approved HR 70 in a 170-3 vote.

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.

Trending Video

Recommended for you