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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 2:50 pm

Senate panel OKs bill to pay wrongfully convicted prisoners

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS –  A Senate panel voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a bill that would pay Hoosiers who have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned.

House Bill 1150 now moves to the full Senate.

The bill generally would allow someone exonerated of a crime to seek a payment of $50,000 per year they were incarcerated. To receive the money they would have to dismiss any existing civil lawsuit or agree not to sue in the future.

Indiana is one of 17 states nationally that currently provides no compensation for exonerated prisoners.

The committee made several small changes to the bill before approving it.

First, it removed language that said a person could not have been at the scene of the crime. The sponsor acknowledged someone could witness a crime and having nothing to do with it.

It says that anyone who has been exonerated in the past would have two years – until November 2021 – to file for the payment. For future exonerations, there is also a two-year statute of limitations to apply via the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

The bill also says the estate of a deceased convict is not eligible.

If approved for payment, it would be split over five yearly installments, under the legislation.

A fiscal analysis found the state could be on the hook for more than $18 million in payments but that would be for every exoneree filed. And the pool is expected to shrink in the future with DNA being used more upfront to avoid false imprisonment.

nkelly@jg.net