Article published Apr 18, 2007
Bill to pay wrongly accused advances
TALLAHASSEE -- After hearing from a man who spent more than 24 years in prison for crimes he didn't commit, a Florida House council approved a plan today to pay wrongly convicted people $50,000 a year for time spent in prison.
The bill (HB 125) by Rep. Priscilla Taylor, D-Riviera Beach, would also give exonerated inmates free college tuition to get started on their lives. The House Safety and Security Council unanimously approved it.
Alan Crotzer, who was freed last year from a 130-year prison sentence, told the council there is no way to make up for the 24 years, six months and 13 days he spent in prison. DNA tests proved that Crotzer, 46, could not have been involved in a kidnapping and rape for which he was convicted in 1981.
The bill is also up for a committee hearing Thursday in the Florida Senate.
Crotzer is seeking $1.25 million for the years he spent in prison. He has a special claims bill pending but said he would rather see the state pass Taylor's bill to provide a formal state policy for compensating prisoners whose "actual innocence" is proved scientifically.
At the end of 2005, Wilton Dedge got $2 million and an apology from lawmakers trying to make up for the state's errors that put the innocent man behind bars for 22 years.
The Brevard County man was compensated for his lost liberty after DNA evidence cleared him. He was released in August 2004.