This past spring welcomed news arrived for dozens of state residents wrongfully convicted of crimes. A new state law declares that this group is now eligible to receive financial compensation for the time they spent behind bars.
The false imprisonment that erased years of freedom happened in ways such as tampered evidence by authorities, perjury, mistaken eyewitness identifications and misleading forensic science.
Governor signs law in March
Gov. Kate Brown on March 24, signed into law the Oregon Justice for Exonerees Act. As a result of the act, people wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit will receive money, counseling, housing assistance, the prompt sealing of records and the clearing of their name.
Introduced in 2021, the bill unanimously passed in the Oregon House and Senate earlier this year.
Will receive $65,000 per year incarcerated
Those wrongfully convicted will receive $65,000 for each year of incarceration and $25,000 for each year on parole and wrongfully placed on a sex offender registry.
The Oregon Innocence Coalition noted that about 13 Oregonians may immediately become eligible and benefit.
Case of Earl Bain
Among this group include Earl Bain, a U.S. Army veteran who served six years in prison for alleged sexual abuse. Gov. Brown pardoned Bain in August 2020, citing that the alleged victim recanted her story, a botched investigation, no witnesses, no physical evidence and the sloppy work of Bain’s public defender.
Bain did not receive any compensation for the years he spent in prison, while on parole or on a sex offender registry as well as the money he spent on clearing his name.
Before the signing of the law, Oregon was among 13 states that failed to offer compensation to wrongfully convicted residents. This group lost out in so many ways, losing income as well as educational and career opportunities. Previously, anyone wrongfully convicted of a crime had to pursue legal action via a civil lawsuit, which often takes years to resolve.
Persistence is crucial
Understand that not all is lost if a judge or jury convicts an innocent person for a crime that he or she did not commit. Persistence is crucial, and so is the help of a legal ally.