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Wrongly convicted Texans become instant millionaires
AP via American Statesman ^ | Sept. 5, 2009 | Jeff Carlton

Posted on 09/06/2009 6:33:51 AM PDT by deport

Wrongly convicted Texans become instant millionaires

New law makes Texas most generous state for payments to cleared prisoners.

DALLAS — Thomas McGowan's journey from prison to prosperity is about to culminate in $1.8 million, and he knows just how to spend it: on a house with three bedrooms, stainless steel kitchen appliances and a washer and dryer.

"I'll let my girlfriend pick out the rest," said McGowan, who was exonerated last year based on DNA evidence after spending nearly 23 years in prison for rape and robbery.

He and other exonerees in Texas, which leads the nation in freeing the wrongly convicted, soon will become millionaires under a new state law that took effect this week.

.........

Exonerees will get $80,000 for each year they spent behind bars. The compensation also includes lifetime annuity payments that for most of the wrongly convicted are worth between $40,000 and $50,000 a year — making it by far the nation's most generous package.

McGowan and the others are among 38 DNA exonerees in Texas, according to the Innocence Project, a New York legal center that specializes in overturning wrongful convictions. Dallas County alone has 21 cases in which a judge overturned guilty verdicts based on DNA evidence, though prosecutors plan to retry one of those.

.........
End snips



TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Extended News; Government; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: innocenceproject; prison; texas
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1 posted on 09/06/2009 6:33:52 AM PDT by deport
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To: deport

Does Texas have the highest rate because they are trying to do the most justice (that is, with the greatest number of death penalties too) or is it because their justice system is the most defective, and therefore, there are the most provably innocent people behind bars?


2 posted on 09/06/2009 6:37:03 AM PDT by coloradan (The US has become a banana republic, except without the bananas - or the republic.)
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To: deport
Texas, which leads the nation in freeing the wrongly convicted,

Texas might be advised to take a hard look at their prosecutors and judges over the last twenty years or more.

3 posted on 09/06/2009 6:37:32 AM PDT by hinckley buzzard
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To: deport

$1.8 million is not nearly enough for 23 years of a man’s life. I don’t know that any amount of money can make up for losing your freedom, not to mention your reputation and respect and a third of your lifetime.


4 posted on 09/06/2009 6:38:12 AM PDT by Roklok
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To: coloradan
It's because (as a co-worker from South Africa, who has worked in Texas) told me,

"Texas is a Third-World hellhole."

Cheers!

5 posted on 09/06/2009 6:38:40 AM PDT by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
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To: deport

I would normally oppose this kind of government largesse, but considering what prison is and considering that when you go your life is pretty much ruined I do think this is an equitable solution. Especially this guy. He spent 23 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. There is no way that he will get that time back or his economic value back. Now I think that we should be executing a lot more people than we do but when they do make a mistake like this you know, there should be restitution.


6 posted on 09/06/2009 6:38:53 AM PDT by AzaleaCity5691
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To: grey_whiskers
"Texas is a Third-World hellhole."

No it isn't.

7 posted on 09/06/2009 6:46:54 AM PDT by cweese (Hook 'em Horns!!!)
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To: hinckley buzzard

Which ones?


8 posted on 09/06/2009 6:47:29 AM PDT by cweese (Hook 'em Horns!!!)
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To: coloradan

Maybe we should ask Tom DeLay.


9 posted on 09/06/2009 6:48:00 AM PDT by tiki (True Christians will not deliberately slander or misrepresent others or their beliefs)
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To: grey_whiskers
Texas is a beautiful State. My husband and I couldn't get here fast enough.

Don't judge it until you have lived here.

And yes, Texas works to implement swift justice.

Dallas/Fort Worth is a major metropolitan area; unfortunately, not unlike several other major metropolitan areas, we've had to deal with "dirty cops." A bunch of convictions were overturned because of dirty cops in Dallas, who were later discovered and ejected from the force.

10 posted on 09/06/2009 6:50:10 AM PDT by TheWriterTX (Proud Retrosexual Wife of 16 Years)
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To: cweese

I take it you’ve never been lost in Houston?


11 posted on 09/06/2009 6:50:52 AM PDT by AzaleaCity5691
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To: grey_whiskers

If Texas ia Third-World hellhole, what the H is South Africa, a concentation camp?


12 posted on 09/06/2009 6:51:45 AM PDT by BilLies
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To: hinckley buzzard

Texas might be advised to take a hard look at their prosecutors and judges over the last twenty years or more.


According to the article Dallas County leads with 21 conviction overturns. That’s a lot and should be examined in detail, imo.

I once sat on a jury looking at a 3rd time conviction for a person on a drug charge. The DAs office presented the most inept case all in trying to get the person sent away. It didn’t take the jury more than a few moments to throw the DA’s case.


13 posted on 09/06/2009 6:55:03 AM PDT by deport
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To: deport
This is a stupid move.

There's any number of ways to manufacture evidence to frame yourself along with hidden proof you didn't do it all in pursuit of $80k a year.

A convict that can't get a job can set himself up to do prison time, later provide “suddenly discovered” proof he didn't do it and collect.

I didn't read the article so if there are protections against this the scratch my comments, but I don't know you would be able to prevent it.

14 posted on 09/06/2009 6:55:16 AM PDT by DB
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To: BilLies

The Republic of Texas


15 posted on 09/06/2009 6:55:32 AM PDT by yazdankurd (fortis fortuna adiuvat)
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To: AzaleaCity5691

I lived there for 26 years. Granted, parts of ANY big city resemble a 3rd World Hellhole, but saying the entire state is such is a preposterous and uninformed statement to make.


16 posted on 09/06/2009 6:55:37 AM PDT by cweese (Hook 'em Horns!!!)
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To: deport
Its fair, I mean, there is NO WAY to repay a wrongfully accused man who has spent many years in prison for something he didn't do, but its better than nothing, alot better.

One thing they CAN'T repay is a life, thats why I usually oppose the death penalty.

17 posted on 09/06/2009 6:56:31 AM PDT by Paradox (ObamaCare = Logan's Run ; There is no Sanctuary!)
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To: cweese
It happened to be Memorial Day when wifey and I left our friends in Conroe - on a cross country driving trip - and proceeded via back roads on through Beaumont.

Even though these roads were very lightly travelled, we were both highly impressed at the way the country folks out in the boonies would often have a dozen American Flags lining their laneways or porches......true Americana.

18 posted on 09/06/2009 7:01:07 AM PDT by ErnBatavia (It's not an Obama "Administration"....it's a "Regime")
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To: grey_whiskers

In followup to previous repliers, I might suggest to let your friend espouse his own views on such a personal issue


19 posted on 09/06/2009 7:06:07 AM PDT by chuck_the_tv_out ( <<< click my name: now featuring Freeper classifieds .)
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To: DB
There's any number of ways to manufacture evidence to frame yourself along with hidden proof you didn't do it all in pursuit of $80k a year. A convict that can't get a job can set himself up to do prison time, later provide “suddenly discovered” proof he didn't do it and collect. I didn't read the article so if there are protections against this the scratch my comments, but I don't know you would be able to prevent it.

That may well be the dumbest post i have ever read here. Are you really suggesting that someone would voluntarily spend 20-plus years in prison in exchange for $80K a year plus a one time lump sum?

20 posted on 09/06/2009 7:12:08 AM PDT by jdub (A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.)
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To: grey_whiskers
I have a South African friends who gave up their South African citizenship and became US citizen so they could live in Texas and never go back to the hell hole that is South Africa.
21 posted on 09/06/2009 7:22:27 AM PDT by Ditter
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To: Roklok

I guess it would depend on how old I was when I got out, but I think I’d be inclined to find those respsonsible and give them a reason to put me back in prison.


22 posted on 09/06/2009 7:28:06 AM PDT by Wolfie
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To: grey_whiskers

Didnt know they raped children in Texas to cure Aids.


23 posted on 09/06/2009 7:36:05 AM PDT by 03A3
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To: TheWriterTX

“who were later discovered and ejected from the force.

Well, let us know when they go to jail for their crimes.


24 posted on 09/06/2009 8:04:19 AM PDT by CodeToad (If it weren't for physics and law enforcement I'd be unstoppable!)
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To: deport

What do they do for the wrongly executed? Perhaps they will name a county after Cameron Willingham?

Anyway, it’s nice that Texas tries to make this intrinsically imperfect world a bit more perfect.


25 posted on 09/06/2009 8:08:39 AM PDT by devere
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To: grey_whiskers
Words of *wisdom* from the Mogadishu on the Mississippi.

Your about page says you've been to Texas. We're you asleep?

26 posted on 09/06/2009 8:08:57 AM PDT by wolfcreek (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lsd7DGqVSIc)
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To: coloradan

Texas has a very high rate of these exonerations because we are looking for them. These are being led by the Dallas county Prosecutor’s office. There is no better way to ensure that the justice system is in fact just, than to root out and publicize past injustice.

Name one other state where the PROSECUTOR’s office has taken the lead on this. We have a new tool available in DNA, and in those cases where the DNA evidence is still accessible, we compare it to the incarcerated individual. If it’s not a match, then we let the person out.

Dallas County DA Craig Watkins deserves international recognition for this effort, and it should be replicated around the country.

Like any human endeavor, the criminal justice system is imperfect. We are just trying to be less so.

Don’t be so smug if your state is not doing this. You also have innocent people in jail, but you are leaving it to their own resources for them to assert their innocence. Texas has brought STATE resources to this problem.


27 posted on 09/06/2009 8:10:36 AM PDT by tpmintx (Liberalism: Solving problems caused by Jealousy - with solutions based on Lies. (Think Green!))
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To: tpmintx

There needs to be some accountability that results in punishment of prosecutors who railroad the innocent. To many liberal attorneys become prosecutors because it allow them to run for office while pretending to be conservative.


28 posted on 09/06/2009 8:16:07 AM PDT by aimhigh
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To: aimhigh
There needs to be some accountability that results in punishment of prosecutors who railroad the innocent.

Hear Hear!!
29 posted on 09/06/2009 8:18:35 AM PDT by tpmintx (Liberalism: Solving problems caused by Jealousy - with solutions based on Lies. (Think Green!))
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To: grey_whiskers

Your friend leaving Texas has improved it, by far.


30 posted on 09/06/2009 8:34:57 AM PDT by BlueAngel
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To: jdub

That may well be the dumbest post i have ever read here. Are you really suggesting that someone would voluntarily spend 20-plus years in prison in exchange for $80K a year plus a one time lump sum?


Especially since this law wasn’t even being considered 20+ years ago.


31 posted on 09/06/2009 8:35:37 AM PDT by deport
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To: tpmintx

I’m glad for these guys. I hope they stay out of trouble amd get to enjoy the rest of their lives.


32 posted on 09/06/2009 8:38:46 AM PDT by catbertz
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To: deport

$80k a year isn’t enough.


33 posted on 09/06/2009 8:39:40 AM PDT by mysterio
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To: jdub
That may well be the dumbest post i have ever read here.

I knew someone would beat me to it. Thanks.

34 posted on 09/06/2009 8:42:18 AM PDT by Eagle Eye (Kenya? Kenya? Kenya just show us the birth certificate?)
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To: jdub; DB

“That may well be the dumbest post i have ever read here.”

It made me think what DB might be an acronym for.

I came up with a very short list.


35 posted on 09/06/2009 8:47:09 AM PDT by headsonpikes (Genocide is the highest sacrament of socialism - "Who-whom?")
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To: mysterio

$80k a year isn’t enough.


Agree that you can’t place a dollar value on one’s freedom and right to be free when wrongly convicted. At least this is an attempt to make some restitution. They do get other items but none repays the loss of that freedom.


36 posted on 09/06/2009 8:47:23 AM PDT by deport
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To: deport

Interesting approach that attempts to right a wrong.

As a side note, I missed in this article how “supposed saints” are ever accused and convicted. Was this guy on his way to Choir practice after working his 8 hours with the needy then his 2 hours at the seminary when he was accosted by police (the man) and evidence planted for his conviction?


37 posted on 09/06/2009 8:51:54 AM PDT by Dryman ("FREE THE LONG FORM!")
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To: AzaleaCity5691

The case itself should be reviewed, as well as all of the cases that the prosecutor tried. Too many of these convictions are because the prosecutor is politically ambitious, and doesn’t care at all about the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Suitable punishments for the prosecutors should be devised if any wrong doing or over reaching is found.


38 posted on 09/06/2009 9:05:45 AM PDT by Hardastarboard (I long for the days when advertisers didn't constantly ask about the health of my genital organs.)
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To: deport
The number of convictions being overturned by DNA "proof" of innocence is suspect. It is not possible to "prove" innocence; this is why our legal system requires proof of guilt. When DNA was not used to convict in the first place, using DNA to overturn a conviction means throwing out some or all of the original evidence. Unfortunately, the reliability of DNA evidence is not guaranteed:

"There have been two main types of forensic DNA testing. They are often called, RFLP and PCR based testing, although these terms are not very descriptive. Generally, RFLP testing requires larger amounts of DNA and the DNA must be undegraded. Crime-scene evidence that is old or that is present in small amounts is often unsuitable for RFLP testing. Warm moist conditions may accelerate DNA degradation rendering it unsuitable for RFLP in a relatively short period of time.

PCR-based testing often requires less DNA than RFLP testing and the DNA may be partially degraded, more so than is the case with RFLP. However, PCR still has sample size and degradation limitations that sometimes may be under-appreciated. PCR-based tests are also extremely sensitive to contaminating DNA at the crime scene and within the test laboratory. During PCR, contaminants may be amplified up to a billion times their original concentration. Contamination can influence PCR results, particularly in the absence of proper handling techniques and proper controls for contamination.

PCR is less direct and somewhat more prone to error than RFLP. However, PCR has tended to replace RFLP in forensic testing primarily because PCR based tests are faster and more sensitive."


From: DNA Testing: An Introduction For Non-Scientists

The articles on these cases do not provide details of how the DNA evidence was processed. At the least, there should be assurances that the "exonerating" DNA evidence does not point to anyone who handled the evidence, and that proper controls were used to prevent contamination. There also should be solid grounds for dismissing the evidence and testimony that was originally judged sufficient to convict.
39 posted on 09/06/2009 9:33:48 AM PDT by Ragnar54
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To: DB
There's any number of ways to manufacture evidence to frame yourself along with hidden proof you didn't do it all in pursuit of $80k a year. A convict that can't get a job can set himself up to do prison time, later provide “suddenly discovered” proof he didn't do it and collect.

Which all SOUNDS good, except for the FORCED ANAL RAPE part.

40 posted on 09/06/2009 9:47:02 AM PDT by UCANSEE2 (Where's this tagline thing everyone keeps talking about?)
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To: tpmintx
Texas has a very high rate of these exonerations because we are looking for them.

That is apparently lost on people. Wrongful convictions are nothing new, but taking the time and resources to use newer technology to find those cases when possible, admitting the wrong, compensating the victim of that wrong as well as possible takes a different mindset than the usual "sweep it under the rug and call the record clean" mentality.

It is highly commendable that there is an effort to right injustice, and let the chips fall where they may.

41 posted on 09/06/2009 10:23:53 AM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing.)
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To: deport

It seems the conservative states are the ones most concerned with right and wrong.


42 posted on 09/06/2009 12:24:30 PM PDT by Tribune7 (I am Jim Thompson!)
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To: Roklok
$1.8 million is not nearly enough for 23 years of a man’s life.

OTOH, it beats the heck out of a cheap suit and a bus ticket.

43 posted on 09/06/2009 12:26:00 PM PDT by Tribune7 (I am Jim Thompson!)
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To: Roklok

Yet it is far better than the $25 and a bus ticket that they used to get.

I think it is a good amount.


44 posted on 09/06/2009 12:58:29 PM PDT by Pikachu_Dad
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To: headsonpikes; Eagle Eye; jdub
Dumbest post eh...

Well gentlemen, ladies, whatever, some people will kill for $80k. A good number of that type would be happy spend a year in jail in exchange for $80k. The odds are they already have done time and know exactly what the trade offs are.

The bottom line is you don't create incentives to do such things.

Instead go after the prosecutors and/or district attorneys who create this situation in the first place.

45 posted on 09/06/2009 4:13:39 PM PDT by DB
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To: DB
Well gentlemen, ladies, whatever, some people will kill for $80k.


And hopefully those aren't the ones getting out. If the process works as it should they will remain incarcerated. This program is in its infancy and those being exonerated have been incarcerated for several years. Are you saying these people should be kept in confinement if there is reasonable doubt/evidence to exonerate them?

As far as going after prosecutors/DAs I agree if they were in error and defense attorneys also if they are negilent in their defense.

46 posted on 09/06/2009 4:26:38 PM PDT by deport
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To: UCANSEE2
There are people that will kill other people for far less than $80k.

A hardened ex-convict knows exactly what the trade offs are. Is it really so far fetched that these people won't try to game the system? They can go to prison, get free room and board, and five years later walk out with $400k in hand when the alternative is working for minimum wage and barely paying for your existence over that same five year period.

You don't create systems that create incentives for bad behavior.

At a minimum it should be by a case by case basis. Not some rule that applies to all cases.

And I do agree that people truly wrongly convicted, especially if for a long period time deserve to be well compensated - which really isn't possible considering what they lost. The prosecutors/district attorneys need to have some major responsibility here - again on a case by case basis.

47 posted on 09/06/2009 4:27:39 PM PDT by DB
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To: deport
“Are you saying these people should be kept in confinement if there is reasonable doubt/evidence to exonerate them?”

Absolutely not.

My point is entirely different.

I'm saying that some ex-convicts could well try to game the system. To create a situation from this point forward where they get themselves convicted of a crime on purpose all the while having hard proof they didn't do it. In other words, the whole thing is staged. So that at a later date that hard proof will mysteriously appear proving they were wrongfully convicted.

The ex-convict stays in prison for 5 years and walks out the door with $400k. An opportunity that may well be far better than any other they have in their life.

48 posted on 09/06/2009 4:35:36 PM PDT by DB
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To: DB

I’m saying that some ex-convicts could well try to game the system.


Yep some may try. That just means the states and DAs/prosecution needs to be ever mindful of suddenly appearing proof of innocence. But that doesn’t delete the need to try and free those wrongly incarcerated with some type compensation for the erroneous incarceration.


49 posted on 09/06/2009 5:00:19 PM PDT by deport
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To: deport

Then make the law only apply to wrongful convictions prior to the law being enacted. Don’t create a future situation ripe to be gamed.

And where is the incentive for the prosecutors not to wrongfully convict in all this?

Prosecutors are the primary source of the problem. Let them have some accountability and future problems of this sort will be reduced.


50 posted on 09/06/2009 5:18:19 PM PDT by DB
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