From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
February 5, 2001
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Senator Ellis Files Legislation to Improve Compensation for the Wrongfully-Imprisoned

(Austin)// Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today filed SB 536, legislation to improve compensation for those wrongfully imprisoned in Texas.

The legislation will increase the damages a wrongfully imprisoned person may recoup if he has served part or all of his sentence, received a full pardon, or had the conviction vacated, dismissed or reversed based on innocence.

"After thirty five years, change in the way Texas compensates the wrongfully imprisoned is long overdue," said Senator Ellis. "We owe those that have been wrongfully imprisoned more than an apology and a pittance."

Under current law, persons wrongfully convicted are entitled to a maximum compensation cap of $50,000 ($25,000 for medical expenses and $25,000 for physical and mental pain and suffering), no matter how much time they served. The compensation cap was established in 1965 and has not changed since.

SB 536 ensures that a wrongfully imprisoned person is allowed to seek adequate compensation. Under the legislation, a jury will consider the following when determining compensation:

In the past year, several high-profile wrongful imprisonment cases, including Anthony Robinson, A.B. Butler, Roy Criner, Kevin Byrd, Carlos Laverina, Christopher Ochoa and just last week, David Pope, have sparked calls for compensation reform. All were cleared after they had served at least a decade in prison for crimes they did not commit.

"Providing adequate compensation for Texans who have been wrongfully convicted is the least we can do to right an injustice," said Ellis. "Fair compensation will never replace the years lost, but it at least sends the signal that the State of Texas wants to right the wrong done to them."