Sunday, May 04, 2014


Former Death Row Inmate At Last Wins Compensation

Justice was a long time coming and a day late. But it did arrive with the eleventh-hour passage Friday of a bill that will let Florida pay James Richardson for wrongly convicting him of murder and imprisoning him for 21 years.

After years of failed efforts, Richardson's supporters persuaded the Florida Legislature to change a law that had left him in a legal limbo since 1989.

The Senate took the final step, passing the bill unanimously at 9:15 p.m. in the closing minutes of the lawmakers' 60-day session.

"The Legislature did the right thing," said Robert Barrar, a Miami attorney who has represented Richardson. "To right an injustice for all those years that were taken away from him."

Lawmakers found Richardson's story very persuasive.

"He's a wonderful gentleman," Joyner said Friday night. "This is our way of saying we take responsibility for the wrong actions of some others in convicting you."

Richardson, a black man, was convicted by an all-white jury in the 1967 poisoning deaths of his seven children in Arcadia. After a questionable trial that later was found to include perjury and prosecutorial misconduct, Richardson was sent to death row and remained in prison for years.

Decades later, the babysitter who served the children their last meal said she had killed them. By then, she was in a nursing home with Alzheimer's disease, but it was enough for the governor to reopen the case. A special prosecutor found Richardson had been convicted on the testimony of jail inmates beaten into perjury.

The murder conviction, now found to be baseless, was thrown out, and Richardson was freed in 1989.

But the years in prison had damaged Richardson's health and ruined his life, and supporters have been asking the state to compensate him.

Original report here




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