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Florida man first to be compensated under state's wrongful incarceration act

[JURIST] A Florida man wrongfully imprisoned for three years and seven months accepted $179,000 in compensation Tuesday, becoming the first person to receive compensation under the state's Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act [text]. Leroy McGee was convicted of robbery [press release] in 1991, a crime he did not commit. After his release, McGee refused to accept the compensation offered to him by the state for eight months in effort to bring attention to alleged shortcomings in the Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act. The act prohibits people with prior felony convictions from receiving compensation for wrongful imprisonment, commonly referred to as the "clean hands" provision, and does not provide compensation for legal fees incurred by wrongfully convicted people to be exonerated. A bill [text] was filed in Florida's Senate [official website] to eliminate the "clean hands" provision, but a similar bill has not yet been filed in the state’s House of Representatives [official website]. Congress has until March 1 to file bills for the year.

According to the Innocence Project [advocacy website], the federal government, the District of Columbia, and 27 states have compensation statutes of some form, while 23 states do not. In addition to the "clean hands" provision and the lack of compensation for legal fees, other shortcomings [Innocence Project report] in the compensation statutes include lack of uniformity and bars on compensation to people who are thought to have "contributed" to their wrongful conviction. In 2006, North Carolina established [JURIST report] the Inmate Innocence Commission to exonerate wrongfully imprisoned inmates.

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