Criminal Justice Committee Votes to Send Wrongful Conviction Compensation Bill to the Full House
On Sept. 20, the Michigan House Criminal Justice Committee voted unanimously to send Senate Bill 291, a law providing compensation for wrongfully convicted Michigan citizens, and House Bill 5815, which provides for re-entry services to exonerees, to a full vote in front of the Michigan House of Representatives. Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren) introduced the legislation that will create the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act.
WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Project director Marla Mitchell-Cichon and her clients, Kenneth Wyniemko and Donya Davis, appeared before the committee in support of both bills during Tuesday’s committee hearing.
“Take a minute to consider all that you might lose during the years of wrongful incarceration. Then consider how you would begin to put your life back together,” said Marla Mitchell, director, WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Project. “Where would you live? How would you support yourself? How would you explain where you have been when you apply for a job? These are just a few of the challenges that Michigan citizens who have been wrongfully convicted face on a daily basis.”
Senate Bill 291 provides compensation to an individual convicted and imprisoned for a crime they did not commit, with damages calculated based upon the number of years of their wrongful incarceration. Thirty states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government provide compensation to the wrongfully convicted.
“It was my intent to help these individuals who were wrongly convicted re-establish their lives,” said Bieda. “When an individual is proven innocent they should find a state that wants to help them, not another legal battle.”
Wyniemko was released after nine years in prison and Davis after seven years. In each of their cases, DNA testing was used to prove their innocence. Wynimeko has testified numerous times in support of the proposed law and is a tireless advocate for criminal justice reform.
The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project is part of the Innocence Network, which has been credited with the release of over 344 wrongfully convicted individuals, mainly through the use of DNA testing. WMU-Cooley’s Innocence Project has exonerated three men: Wyniemko, Davis, and Nathaniel Hatchett.
About Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School: Western Michigan University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School affiliated in 2014, combining the status of a nationally-ranked, public, comprehensive research university with the commitment to practical legal education of an independent, non-profit, national law school. WMU-Cooley is accredited by both the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. The law school has provided nearly 20,000 graduates with the practical skills necessary for a seamless transition from academia to the real world, and enrolls classes in January, May, and September at its Lansing, Auburn Hills, and Grand Rapids, Michigan campuses, and its Tampa Bay, Florida campus. WMU and the law school continue to operate as independent institutions with their own governance structure and separate fiduciary responsibilities.