Monday, February 22, 2010

Wrongfully Convicted Florida Man To Accept Compensation offer

Mistaken eyewitness identification yet again plus a bungled defense. He spent nearly four years behind bars for the armed robbery of a gas station committed by someone else while he was at work. Problem was, the gas station attendant mistakenly identified Mr. McGee as the holdup man. His attorney brought the wrong timecard to court, failing to prove that Mr. McGee was working during the robbery. The defense lawyer should serve some time behind bars too.

Leroy McGee, a 42-year-old man who was wrongfully accused of committing a robbery, will begin to collect $179 thousand from the state of Florida. McGee had initially turned down the money because he had said it was not enough to pay his legal bills he incurred to fight for the compensation. But reports say McGee has now agreed to sign the compensation papers Tuesday. He became eligible to receive the money last year, but he had initially declined it after the state refused to pay his attorneys' costs.

He was convicted in 1991 of a robbery he was not involved in and served three years and seven months in prison. He even had evidence that showed he could not have committed the crime. "I have proof that I was at work," explained McGee. " It's a time card. It shows where I punched in at 2:36 and I punched out at 11:00. So I was at work during that time."

McGee is one of the first people to be compensated under the new Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act, which allows people wrongfully convicted of a crime to get up to $50 thousand for every year spent in prison without seeking approval from the Legislature. Before the program was signed into law, victims of wrongful conviction had to file a claims bill with the legislature, a process that could result in lengthy delays and political haggling over payment.

Even with the new law, the process to get compensated is complicated, and McGee is the first person to reach the point where the state is ready to cut a check. Getting to that point took costly legal help, and McGee believes the state should help pay that cost. Part of the process includes doing to court to prove your innocence. "You have to go into court," explained his attorney David Comras. "You actually have to prove innocence, you have to prove actual innocence. "

A state-paid annuity provides repayment over time, meaning people compensated under the law might not have the funds to fully pay the attorneys who helped them get the payment. McGee's attorney is entitled to 25 percent of any payment McGee gets from the state, but his attorneys say they will not force him to pay them out of his own pocket if the state refuses to cover attorneys costs.

McGee and Comras are pushing for the state legislature to take a second look at the Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act. McGee fought his conviction after he was released from prison and was able to get it reversed with the help of the judge who presided over his case.

Original report here

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