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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 10, 2018 09:26 AM
From: Senator Daylin Leach
To: All Senate members
Subject: Compensating Innocent People Convicted of Crimes
Soon I will reintroduce Senator Stewart Greenleaf’s legislation to authorize compensation for the wrongfully convicted. The 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 attorney’s 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.

Since 1989, 69 Pennsylvanians have been exonerated after having been convicted of crimes they did not commit, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. The 2011 report of the Joint State Government Commission’s (JSGC) Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions 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.”

The 2011 JSGC 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 to prison. Actual innocence could be established judicially or by an executive pardon.

This bill was known as Senate Bill 1053 during the 2017-2018 session. I cosponsored it alongside Senators Schwank, Costa, Yudichak, Haywood, Brewster, Hughes, and White.

Please join me in supporting this important legislation. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.