Florida Approves $2 Million in Compensation for Man Wrongfully Convicted of Crime in 1976
In February, the Florida Attorney General’s Office approved a $2 million settlement claim for a man who was wrongfully convicted over 40 years ago. This decision was announced three weeks after the Department of Legal Affairs denied his request for compensation on the grounds that new evidence indicating that someone else could have been involved in the crime and his exoneration did not technically prove his innocence. However, this decision out of the Department of Legal Affairs was overturned because the Department was found to have overstepped its responsibilities in second-guessing the decision made by the court and denying the claim for compensation due to evidentiary concerns with a court finding.
While the two men convicted were identified by one of the victims during the original trial in 1976, there was no physical evidence tying either of them to the crime. Still, they were sentenced to life in prison and spent 43 years there until forensic evidence exonerated them, showing that the crime could not have happened the way that the victim described it.
There were a number of other issues that occurred during the trial as well: In addition to the defendants having alibi witnesses corroborating their stories, their defense attorneys did not call any witnesses or present any evidence in their defense, and another man confessed to the crime. The jury never heard or saw most of this evidence; evidence that essentially left no confidence in the convictions or guilt of the defendants.
“Clean Hands” Provision
Under the law, Florida provides a minimum of $50,000 in compensation for every year that someone who is wrongfully convicted sits in prison, with a maximum of $2 million. However, a defendant is ineligible to receive compensation if they have been convicted of another violent felony; a law known as the “Clean Hands” provision that some have been trying to abolish in the state legislature for several years now.
What Did the Department of Legal Affairs Do Wrong?
The Department of Legal Affairs is limited to reviewing a submitted application to ensure that it contains all of the materials that are required by law. It does not have the power to determine whether or not a petitioner was wrongfully incarcerated and thus eligible or ineligible for compensation based on the evidence. The state legislature would have to provide the Department with this authority first before it could do so.
If You Have Been Charged in Florida, It Is Imperative That You Work with The Right Criminal Defense Attorney
There are simply too many wrongful convictions that occur every day to risk working with an Orlando criminal defense attorney who could fail to aggressively defend your rights. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, contact the Baez Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation and find out about our experienced defense services.