Fund would help exonerated start over

Published February 1, 2008 1:18 am

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While money would not erase the pain of being wrongly convicted and imprisoned for a crime, it could help exonerated individuals start new lives when they walk out of prison and re-enter society.

Such is the motivation behind SB16, sponsored by Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights. The measure passed unanimously out of the House Judiciary Committee Thursday morning.

"You can try to imagine what it means to these people" - some come out of prison to no Social Security benefits, family, retirement or career, Bell said.

To inmates proved factually innocent, SB16 would provide $35,000 - the average annual income in Utah - for each year of incarceration up to a maximum of 15.

Bell's legislation would establish the process whereby inmates, convicted of felonies, could petition for hearings to determine their factual innocence.

New DNA techniques have opened the doors to an entire category of recent exonerees nationwide, Bell said.

"We've worked hard with advocates from the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center toward a common goal, to help these few cases that are so compelling," said Utah Assistant Attorney General Creighton Horton.

"We don't know when and if we'll have one in Utah," Horton said, noting that some states have already had several.

The financial assistance - 20 percent to be paid up front with the rest being placed in an annuity - would come from the state's Crime Victims Reparation Fund.

The bill would also expunge the exoneree's wrongful conviction.

"That symbolic gesture is huge," Horton said.



Would provide money for individuals wrongly convicted of a crime to help them rebuild lives.

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