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Michigan’s Wrongful Compensation Act To Be Tweaked

According to Wolf Mueller, an attorney who has represented multiple individuals making claims through the law, says the initial law was badly written.

Michigan’s Wrongful Compensation Act is in the midst of receiving what many say is a much-needed amendment after 15 Democratic senators sent a bill through the Michigan House of Representatives. 

As ProPublica reports, the eligibility requirements of the bill leaves those who should receive compensation from the state out of the conversation altogether. 

Marvin Cotton Jr., who had his murder conviction overturned in 2020, described the impact of the Wrongful Compensation Act to ProPublica: “You fight for years to prove your wrongful conviction was actually wrong,” Cotton said. “And then immediately, when you step out, you pick up this new war, and you’re constantly trying to prove yourself again.”

According to Wolf Mueller, an attorney who has represented multiple individuals making claims, says the initial law was written badly.

“If you shouldn’t have been tried in the first place, because there was insufficient existing evidence to convict you, then you should be compensated,” Mueller said. “You are just as much wrongfully convicted as somebody else who was lucky enough to find new evidence.”

The changes to the law, according to Robyn Frankel, an assistant attorney general and director of the Conviction Integrity Unit, are beneficial for those wrongfully convicted.

Frankel testified at a hearing concerning the proposed changes, “removing the requirement that new evidence be the reason for the dismissal was prompted by our realization that more often than not, specific explanations are not provided at the time a case is dismissed.”

Rep. Joey Andrews, the bill’s main sponsor, is hopeful that more representatives will sign on, including Republicans. Michigan’s levers of power are controlled by the Democratic Party and the bill’s next stop is the Senate if it passes the House.

However, Kenneth Nixon, the co-founder and president of the Organization of Exonerees, a nonprofit, wants to see the legislation go further. 

Nixon wrote a letter to the committee on March 11, arguing that the bill should be applied retroactively.

Nixon also made a case for applying a two-year window for those with potential claims to bring their cases forward. He also argued for the amounts awarded to be adjusted for inflation, which would modestly increase the amount awarded.

Mueller agrees with the spirit of Nixon’s letter, telling ProPublica that compensation is “not just life-changing from a monetary standpoint; it’s a dignity standpoint. Somebody recognized that they had been wronged and wanted to make it right.”

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