Bill Seeking Compensation For Wrongfully Convicted Death Row Inmate Passes

Feb 11, 2014

A bill seeking to compensate a man wrongfully convicted for killing his kids passed its first Senate hearing Tuesday.

Last year, Orlando Democratic Senator Geraldine Thompson filed a claims bill on behalf of James Joseph Richardson, who was wrongfully convicted in 1968 for allegedly poisoning his seven children.

“Later, his next-door neighbor who would prepare lunch for the children confessed that she put poison in their food and all seven of them died. Mr. Richardson spent 24 years incarcerated in Florida’s prisons. He talks about remembering even now, having the hair shaved off from the back of his hands to prepare him for the electric chair. He is in his late 70s at this point,” said Thompson.

After talking with Senate Judiciary Committee staff, Thompson found it would be better to file a bill allowing claimants to apply through the Department of Legal Affairs, rather than go through the claims bill process.

To do that, her bill amends the “Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act.” Thompson’s bill allows persons wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death before 1980 to be compensated, as long as a special prosecutor reviews the claimant’s conviction–which can only happen at the Governor’s request, among other criteria.

But some lawmakers worry the bill should be expanded to include more people, not just those wrongfully convicted before 1980. Still, the bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday 9-0.

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