LAW WEEK COLORADO
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill today to provide compensation and other services for those who have been wrongly convicted.
HB 1230, sponsored by Reps. Angela Williams (D-Denver) and Dan Pabon (D-Denver), creates 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 was present for the bill signing, 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.
“The signing of this bill into law symbolizes that we are dedicated to righting our wrongs in Colorado,” Williams said. “When an innocent person like Robert Dewey has 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.
“With this, we recognize that there are injustices in our justice system; that our civil rights can be wronged,” Pabon said. “When that justice is not realized, it harms all of us. This bill begins to fill that gap in our law and makes a promise to Robert Dewey and anyone who may come after him — that when a mistake is made — we will do all we can to make it right.”
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.