MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Wisconsin lawmakers are working on a pair of bipartisan bills that would boost compensation for a man who spent more than two decades behind bars for a homicide he didn’t commit as well as for all wrongful convictions.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported Monday that Sens. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, and Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, are pushing a bill that would award Robert Stinson $90,000 on top of the maximum $25,000 he’s already collected from the state.
Stinson, 49, of Milwaukee, was convicted in 1985 of killing a neighbor. He was released from prison in 2009 after evidence showed bite marks on the victim, Ione Cychosz, didn’t match Stinson. DNA evidence found on Cychosz actually matched another man, Moses Price, who is now serving a life sentence, the State Journal reported.
The Wisconsin Claims Board in 2010 awarded Stinson $25,000, the most a wrongfully convicted person can get from the state.
Taylor and Grothman’s bill is scheduled for a public hearing Tuesday before the state Senate’s judiciary committee.
Meanwhile, Reps. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, and Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, are circulating a bill that would increase the maximum annual payout from $5,000 to $50,000 and eliminate limits on total compensation.
The measure would also require immediate temporary assistance for former inmates who have been exonerated, as well as eliminate requirements that compensation be made only in instances in which a petitioner didn’t contribute to the wrongful conviction through an action or inaction. The bill also would require an administrative law judge rather than the Claims Board to decide whether to award the money.
All the bill’s provisions would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 1990.
Keith Findley, co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, said of the 29 states that provide any compensation for wrongful convictions, Wisconsin’s payouts are the lowest.
“I think that what (the bills) show is the subject of wrongful convictions is not a partisan issue,” Wisconsin Innocence Project attorney Byron Lichstein said. “Anyone who has an interest in the government operating fairly and admitting when it makes mistakes should support this.”