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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: December 9, 2016 04:30 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: Compensation for the wrongfully convicted
In September 2011 the Joint State Government Commission’s Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions issued its report to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The 2011 report indicated that, “[s]ince 1989, 34 states and the District of Columbia have been witness to 273 postconviction DNA exonerations. These exonerations represent cases in which the conviction has been indisputably determined to be wrong by continuing advances in DNA science and evidence. They represent tragedy not only for the person whose life is irreparably damaged by incarceration for a crime he did not commit, but also for the victim since each wrongful conviction also represents the failure to convict the true perpetrator.”

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 59 Pennsylvanians have been exonerated after having been convicted of crimes they did not commit. The Joint State Government Commission report did not cast blame on any part of the criminal justice system. Instead, the report sought to bring nationally accepted “best practices” to Pennsylvania. Among other suggestions, the report recommended that Pennsylvania statutorily compensate any person who demonstrates actual innocence after being confined in prison. Actual innocence could be established judicially or by an executive pardon.

I intend to reintroduce Senate Bill 1274 of last session to authorize compensation for the wrongfully convicted. My bill will provide remedies that include an award of damages, compensation for child support payments, and payment for health care and reentry services, along with reasonable attorneys’ fees. The remedies provided for in my bill are intended to be conclusive and will bar any future action by the claimant against the Commonwealth.

Please join me in cosponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as SB1053