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Archive for Monday, October 11, 2004

Recompense

We need to do far better for those who are improperly convicted and imprisoned.

October 11, 2004

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Just this week prosecutors dropped murder charges against a Texas man who spent 17 years on death row for a crime he may not have committed. Evidence was the man did not get a fair trial and it appears a two-fatality fire the man supposedly set had been an accident.

What kind of compensation is appropriate for such a matter? Rightly or wrongly, the man is legally innocent.

Then a man who had been kept in confinement for something like 22 years was awarded $800,000 by the state of Tennessee because indications are he was improperly convicted and imprisoned. That is just under $40,000 a year, which may be impressive to some, but consider the pain and suffering of the inmate and his family.

At least there has been an attempt to make amends for some grievous errors in the case. That is quite an improvement over many such instances.

While the great majority of people convicted of serious crimes are guilty as charged, and deserve to be confined or sometimes even executed, there doubtless are many who sit behind bars who did not do what a judge or jury has convicted them of. That is a horrible situation and something that should draw compensation of a notable nature if and when a condition of "not guilty" is established.

We have various methods of assisting people who have been hurt or wronged in our society, but, for the most part, there is no consistent program to repay, at least financially, those who are improperly convicted and sent into the constant hell of prison life.

Perhaps the $800,000 settlement in the case of the 22-year victim will help pave the way to a more decent approach to the subject of improper conviction and confinement.

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