Payoffs for the Wrongly Convicted

Crime, Law and JusticeJails and PrisonsJustice SystemHarbordale Elementary SchoolHouston

You may remember Josiah Sutton who spent four years in prison for a rape he didn't commit.

Then there was George Rodriguez who spent seventeen years behind bars for a rape he didn't commit.

They are just two Texans who have been wrongly locked up, then set free, over the past few years.

It's become such a problem that the Texas Legislature has passed a law that went into effect this week which compensates the wrongly convicted. Those who have been locked up for long periods of time can end up being paid more than a million dollars.

"You think about it, how much would you want to spend? Five or ten years in prison," said Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Kent Schaffer.

Schaffer says people who have been wrongly convicted deserve at least what the Legislature is giving them, $80,000 for each year behind bars, paid in a lump sum.

"I can't think of any amount of money that I would trade to go to prison for that period of time and miss out on life," said Schaffer.

The Texas Legislature is also giving the wrongly convicted $40,000 to $50,000 a year for the rest of their lives.

It seems like a lot of money, but Rodriguez won $5 million from a jury in Federal Court. So, in the long run Texas could be saving money by avoiding lawsuits with expensive jury verdicts.

"Prison is a horrible place. Horrible things happen. You're locked up. You're confined like an animal for something you didn't do. I can't think of any amount of money that's really appropriate," Schaffer said.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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