"Rebuilding the Lives of the Wrongfully Convicted"

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Man who served 17 years in prison for rape he didn’t commit inspires Washington state bill to compensate wrongfully imprisoned $50,000 per year

New York Daily News
       
        

 

The state of Washington is considering a bill that would pay prison inmates  who were wongly convicted $50,000 for every year they spent in jail.  Twenty-seven other states have passed similar laws. 

“Just trying to make a decision -- a simple decision. I’m not used to that,”  Northrop told the Seattle Times. “In there, you don’t have to worry about  it.”

With three grown children he scarcely knew and child support bills of $50,000  waiting for him when he was released, Northrop, now 48, finally managed to  secure an $11-an-hour job at an auto glass repair shop. His story, however, has  proven the inspiration for a new law that could right his financial woes and  help other wrongfully convicted inmates.

RELATED:  DNA FREES WRONGLY CONVICTED MAN AFTER 3 DECADES

“When I read about it, I was just so distressed by his story,” Rep. Tina  Orwall of Washington state’s House of Representatives told the Daily News. “I  definitely wanted to help him. As a parent, I can’t think of something more  horrible.”

Orwall introduced House Bill 1341, which would provide wrongly convicted  inmates with $50,000 for each year they served behind bars. Death row inmates  would receive an additional $50,000. The bill would also mandate that the state  pay wrongfully convicted sex offenders $25,000 per year that they spent on  parole.

Federal law already requires payments of $50,000 per year for anyone  wrongfully detained in a federal prison.

Already, 27 states have passed similar laws, but upwards of one-third of  those whose convictions have been overturned have yet to receive any  compensation, the Innocence Project says on its website.

RELATED:  BRUTAL 1978 MURDER OF GIRL, 15, TO BE RE-OPENED

While some of the Washington bill’s opponents cited the state’s budget  deficit as a reason not to authorize payments to the former inmates, Orwall says  that in the end, it makes fiscal sense.

“We currently have three lawsuits going through the court system brought by  people who were wrongfully convicted,” Orwall said. “One payout in just one of  these cases will be much more than the cost of the new bill.”

According to Orwall, the Innocence Project has conducted a review of the  allegations of wrongful convictions in the state over the past 12 years and have  identified just four cases that would qualify for monetary compensation.

Though it’s an attempt to make amends for the criminal justice system’s  errors, however, Northrop knows nothing can fully erase what happened to  him.

“I did 17 messed-up years in there,” Northrop told the Times.  

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Man who served 17 years in prison for rape he didn’t commit inspires Washington state bill to compensate wrongfully imprisoned $50,000 per year

New York Daily News
       
        

 

The state of Washington is considering a bill that would pay prison inmates  who were wongly convicted $50,000 for every year they spent in jail.  Twenty-seven other states have passed similar laws. 

“Just trying to make a decision -- a simple decision. I’m not used to that,”  Northrop told the Seattle Times. “In there, you don’t have to worry about  it.”

With three grown children he scarcely knew and child support bills of $50,000  waiting for him when he was released, Northrop, now 48, finally managed to  secure an $11-an-hour job at an auto glass repair shop. His story, however, has  proven the inspiration for a new law that could right his financial woes and  help other wrongfully convicted inmates.

RELATED:  DNA FREES WRONGLY CONVICTED MAN AFTER 3 DECADES

“When I read about it, I was just so distressed by his story,” Rep. Tina  Orwall of Washington state’s House of Representatives told the Daily News. “I  definitely wanted to help him. As a parent, I can’t think of something more  horrible.”

Orwall introduced House Bill 1341, which would provide wrongly convicted  inmates with $50,000 for each year they served behind bars. Death row inmates  would receive an additional $50,000. The bill would also mandate that the state  pay wrongfully convicted sex offenders $25,000 per year that they spent on  parole.

Federal law already requires payments of $50,000 per year for anyone  wrongfully detained in a federal prison.

Already, 27 states have passed similar laws, but upwards of one-third of  those whose convictions have been overturned have yet to receive any  compensation, the Innocence Project says on its website.

RELATED:  BRUTAL 1978 MURDER OF GIRL, 15, TO BE RE-OPENED

While some of the Washington bill’s opponents cited the state’s budget  deficit as a reason not to authorize payments to the former inmates, Orwall says  that in the end, it makes fiscal sense.

“We currently have three lawsuits going through the court system brought by  people who were wrongfully convicted,” Orwall said. “One payout in just one of  these cases will be much more than the cost of the new bill.”

According to Orwall, the Innocence Project has conducted a review of the  allegations of wrongful convictions in the state over the past 12 years and have  identified just four cases that would qualify for monetary compensation.

Though it’s an attempt to make amends for the criminal justice system’s  errors, however, Northrop knows nothing can fully erase what happened to  him.

“I did 17 messed-up years in there,” Northrop told the Times.  

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Texas: DNA Test Leads to Freedom After 30 Years

A 58-year-old man who served nearly 30 years in prison on a murder conviction has been freed after DNA testing pointed to another man as the culprit. The convict, Randolph Arledge, was allowed to go free on Monday by a judge in Corsicana, about 50 miles southeast of Dallas. Mr. Arledge was convicted in 1984 of stabbing Carolyn Armstrong more than 40 times and leaving her body on a dirt road. He was sentenced to 99 years. But prosecutors and Mr. Arledge’s lawyers with the Innocence Project agreed that he should be released after DNA tests on a hairnet found in Ms. Armstrong’s car turned up a near-perfect match for another man, who is still at large. Judge James Lagomarsino agreed with the lawyers and will recommend to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that the conviction be formally overturned. Mr. Arledge also served a sentence for armed robbery during part of his time in prison.      

Texas: DNA Test Leads to Freedom After 30 Years

A 58-year-old man who served nearly 30 years in prison on a murder conviction has been freed after DNA testing pointed to another man as the culprit. The convict, Randolph Arledge, was allowed to go free on Monday by a judge in Corsicana, about 50 miles southeast of Dallas. Mr. Arledge was convicted in 1984 of stabbing Carolyn Armstrong more than 40 times and leaving her body on a dirt road. He was sentenced to 99 years. But prosecutors and Mr. Arledge’s lawyers with the Innocence Project agreed that he should be released after DNA tests on a hairnet found in Ms. Armstrong’s car turned up a near-perfect match for another man, who is still at large. Judge James Lagomarsino agreed with the lawyers and will recommend to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that the conviction be formally overturned. Mr. Arledge also served a sentence for armed robbery during part of his time in prison.      

Exonerated man's ordeal ends: 'I am overwhelmed with joy'

January 07, 2013|By Lisa Black | Tribune reporter

 

Bennie Starks is flanked by attorneys Lauren Kaeseberg, left, and Jed Stone as they celebrate the dropped final charges at the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan. (Stacey Wescott)

A wrongfully convicted man who spent 20 years in prison for rape and battery had a happy final day in court today as Lake County officially dropped the last charge in a case that dates back to 1986.

"I don't even have any words. I am overwhelmed with joy. It's finally over," Bennie Starks said outside the Lake County courthouse this morning, minutes after all the details of dropping the case had been ironed out.

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Days into his first term in office last month, Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim agreed to vacate the final charge of aggravated battery, reversing the course of retired Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller.

"For 2½ decades, a dark cloud has shrouded this courthouse," Starks' attorney Jed Stone said. "Today a ray of sunlight shines through that cloud because of Mike Nerheim."

The case has a byzantine history that reaches back to 1986.

Starks, 53, who lives in Chicago, spent 20 years in prison for raping and battering a 69-year-old woman in Waukegan before DNA pointed away from him.

The victim had identified Starks as her attacker, authorities had said his jacket was found near the scene and bite marks on the woman matched him. His attorneys called the dental evidence into question, and he said his jacket had been stolen from him.

He was freed six years ago after DNA evidence indicated the woman had had sex with someone else and appeals judges ordered a new trial. Prosecutors continued to pursue the rape charge against Starks, arguing the woman must have had consensual sex with another man, although she said the opposite at trial.

Prosecutors finally dropped the rape charge in May, but the battery charge survived because it had been split from the rape case by a prior court ruling.

In June, the appeals court ordered Lake County to hold a hearing where Starks' lawyers could argue for a new trial on the battery charge. Lake County called on appeals judges to reconsider and, when they declined, asked the state Supreme Court for review.

The Illinois Supreme Court declined to do so on Nov. 28, one week before Nerheim said he would end Starks' prosecution.

"He's finally cleared his name," said Lauren Kaeseberg, an attorney who had been working with Starks since 2004 for the Innocence Project, which uses DNA evidence to exonerate people who have been wrongly convicted.

"He's exonerated in every way … he can move forward … now he can explain a 25-year gap in his work history."

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