(April 9) – A bill to provide compensation and other services for those who have been wrongly convicted passed the House today by a vote of 60 to two.
HB13-1230, sponsored by Reps. Angela Williams (D-Denver) and Dan Pabon (D-Denver), will create a state compensation program for people who are found factually innocent of felony crimes after serving time in jail, prison or juvenile placement.
The case of Robert Dewey inspired the bill. Dewey, who testified in committee in support of the bill, was wrongly imprisoned for 18 years for the rape and murder of Jacie Taylor. When he was released after new DNA evidence exonerated him, he had no money and no resources to properly acclimate back into society. State law forbade giving him so much as a quarter to make a phone call.
“This bill is about making a wrong right for Mr. Dewey and anyone who may come after him,” Rep. Williams said. “When an innocent person has had his life stripped away from him, justice demands that the individual be compensated for the harm suffered.”
To become eligible for the compensation, the innocent person must submit a petition and supporting documentation to the court.
“This bill recognizes that there are injustices in our justice system; that our civil rights can be wronged,” Rep. Pabon said. “When that justice is not realized, it harms all of us. And Mr. Dewey’s story showed us that in Colorado we have a gap in our law—one that, while rare, turns its back on the democracy and justice our system represents.”
The bill will provide $70,000 for each year incarcerated, tuition waivers at state institutions of higher education, access to health care, compensation for child support payments and reasonable attorney fees. The exonerated will also be provided with financial literacy counseling.