Robert Dewey case inspires bill to compensate the wrongfully convicted
If the bill passes, funding will come from the general fund and would require appropriation from the legislature through the joint budget committee, Pabon explains.
An individual wrongfully convicted would have to go through a specific judicial process to determine eligibility for the fund, he adds. It would be available only to those who are actually found to be innocent -- and not just individuals who weren't convicted due to a technicality, for example.
Dan Pabon at the State Capitol
Pabon is still finalizing the details of the proposal, but he says if individuals were approved to access these funds, they would receive the equivalent of an annual salary for each year wrongfully spent behind bars. The payment wouldn't be a lump cash offering, but given on an annual basis going forward.
"We're in the minority of states who don't have this...and I think this is gaining more recognition," Pabon says, adding that for an individual like Dewey, "He's coming out of prison. He's got no job skills, no real training. He's free but penniless, and the likelihood of finding gainful employment in any meaningful way...that's gonna help him move forward with his life is extremely difficult."
Old mug shot of Robert Dewey
A group called the Innocence Project says that 27 states have some form of compensation statute. Colorado does not -- and Pabon believes this is the first time a lawmaker here has proposed such legislation here.
"There's broad, bipartisan support for both the idea and the mechanism," he says. "Like anything else in the legislature, the devil is in the details."
Pabon says he and his co-sponsor are talking to a wide range of criminal law experts to "make this the best bill possible...with the ultimate goal, of course, of saying sorry for something that never should have happened."
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