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Innocent convicts may get state payments

Most Minnesota representatives agree that the state owes people wrongly convicted for crimes.

The House voted 121-2 Monday to provide up to $100,000 a year to people wrongly imprisoned and up to $50,000 for people put on supervisory release after they were improperly convicted. They also would receive a certificate from the state indicating they should not have been convicted.

Rep. John Lesch, D-St. Paul, said that his bill is about a state justice system that “delivers justice with fairness and integrity, but it is composed of people.” Lesch said that “sometimes injustice” comes out of the human-based system.

Former prisoners testified in front of legislative committees, saying they received no apologies and no compensation after the state court system convicted them, and then decided they were innocent.

Lesch said that the wrong convictions meant families struggled to finance their needs and those wrongly convicted discovered they could not advance in their professions once they got out of prison or supervised release.

“We heard some very compelling testimony,” Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said.

Drazkowski said only “a very limited number” of people have been wrongly convicted.

Compensation would be considered in cases where the state dismisses charges, the court reverses a judgment based on innocence or the court orders a new trial and the person is found not guilty. In cases with multiple related crimes, the person must be found not guilty of all of them to get state compensation.

A wrongly convicted person must apply for compensation and a specially established panel would determine how much the person could receive.

A similar bill awaits a Senate vote.

Don Davis, INFORUM

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