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Louisiana increases payment for those wrongfully convicted

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By Ted O’Neil | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – A new law recently signed by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards will increase the compensation for people who are found to have been wrongfully convicted of committing a crime.

House Bill 92 passed unanimously in the state House 98-0 and was approved 37-1 by the state Senate earlier this month. It goes into effect Aug. 1.

The measure will provide $40,000 per year, up to a maximum of $400,000, for each year a person served in prison if they are judged to have been wrongfully convicted. The $40,000 is paid annually over 10 years, though the person can also opt for a lump sum of $250,000.

The current law provides for $25,000 per year up to a maximum of $250,000.

Anyone deemed to have been wrongfully convicted after Sept. 1, 2005, and who is currently receiving compensation can file a petition to receive the higher amount. That process begins July 1, 2022, and petitions must be filed by July 1, 2023.

There are currently 15 people in the state receiving payments for wrongful conviction. Two others who previously received $25,000 for each year of imprisonment but did not reach the $250,000 maximum will also be eligible for additional compensation.

The Innocence Project New Orleans says that just 33 people have ever qualified for wrongful conviction payments statewide.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joe Marino, an independent from the New Orleans suburb of Gretna, originally wanted the new amount to be $50,000 annually but still capped at $250,000.

Marino told reporters he does not expect the number of wrongful convictions to increase much because prosecutors are using more sophisticated methods of DNA testing before bringing cases to trial, thereby reducing the number of convictions that are overturned.

Louisiana is one of 36 states that offer compensation for wrongful convictions. Other states, however, are much more generous. Texas pays $80,000 for each year a person is incarcerated with no cap. Alabama pays $50,000 per year with no cap and Florida pays $50,000 per year with a $2 million cap.

A similar bill was introduced in 2020 but was scuttled when the legislative session was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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