Innocence Project Grantee Highlight: Innocent People Wrongfully Convicted Deserve Fair Compensation

Innocence Project Grantee Highlight: Innocent People Wrongfully Convicted Deserve Fair Compensation

Note from the CREDO team: This February, Innocence Project is among three amazing groups who will receive a share of our $100,000 monthly grant. Funding from the CREDO community this month will power the Innocence Project’s work to restore lives by freeing the innocent and supporting their reconnection to community, transform the systems responsible through policy reform, and advance the collective power of this innocence movement.

Read this important blog post from Alexandra Weeks, Innocent Project’s Assistant Director of Institutional Giving below, then click here to visit CREDODonations.com to cast your vote to help determine how we distribute our monthly grant to Innocence Project and our other amazing grantees this February.

At the Innocence Project we envision a criminal legal system beyond wrongful conviction. We fight for fair, compassionate, and equitable systems of justice; free the innocent; and prevent wrongful convictions. Our work is guided by science and grounded in anti-racism — leveraging 30 years of expertise to not only exonerate, free, and support the staggering number of innocent people wrongly convicted; but also drive reform of the unjust, unreliable, and racially biased systems that lead to wrongful convictions. Compensation for the wrongfully convicted is a fundamental piece of this work.

More than 4,000 years have been lost to wrongful incarceration by the 236 innocent people the Innocence Project has freed or exonerated to date. At the minimum, states have the responsibility to provide compensation for this injustice — currently 13 states have no wrongful conviction compensation law at all.

Right now, Florida has an opportunity to reform their wrongful compensation law to ensure fair and accessible compensation for all exonerees who have spent years of their lives wrongfully incarcerated. Florida’s existing law is leaving out many of the people it should be benefitting. Fifteen exonerees, who spent a combined 236 years incarcerated for crimes they did not commit, are barred from receiving compensation for their wrongful imprisonment because of unique issues in the state’s law. This doesn’t have to be the case, and only two changes need to be made to allow them to obtain the compensation they rightfully deserve:

  1. Allow people with prior convictions to receive compensation. Florida’s law is the only one in the U.S. that bars compensation to exonerees if they have been previously convicted of other crimes. Research shows that people who have previously come into contact with the legal system are much more likely to be wrongfully convicted in the first place due to their record.
  2. Extend the tight 90-day application deadline from the day an exoneree’s conviction was overturned. Florida arbitrarily requires exonerees to file for compensation within 90 days from the date that their wrongful conviction is vacated by a judge. This deadline doesn’t consider common circumstances outside of exonerees’ control wherein they are forced to wait longer than 90 days for prosecutors to accept the judge’s ruling, rendering them ineligible for compensation.

Florida lawmakers have the opportunity to solve these issues now. Rep. Traci Koster (R-Hillsborough & Pinellas) and Senator Keith Perry (R-Alachua, Marion, Putnam) have introduced House Bill 241 and Senate Bill 526 to fix the law for all exonerees in Florida. In collaboration with our local Innocence Network partner the Innocence Project of Florida, and with your help, we are working to pass this critical legislation. 

Support exonerees today by pledging your support for compensating all wrongfully convicted people — text FLORIDA to 97016 stay updated on this campaign.

If passed, the impact of this reform would not only mean fair compensation for the current 15 Floridians who lost more than 230 combined years to wrongful incarceration, but would also ensure future injustices are rectified. Here are the stories of just a few of those exonerees who still await compensation for decades of wrongful conviction:

Clemente Aguirre-Jarquin was exonerated in 2018 after spending 14 years in prison, including a decade on death row, for a murder he didn’t commit. He is one of six exonerees barred from compensation due to the narrow and unrealistic filing deadline. When the court threw out his conviction, Clemente only had 90 days to seek compensation, but like most exonerees, he had to wait to see if the prosecutor would request a retrial before he could show he was fully exonerated and eligible for compensation. When the prosecutor finally announced Clemente wouldn’t be retried, it was too late. Read more about Clemente’s story and his ongoing fight for justice in his own words here.

Clemente Aguirre and his attorney Josh Dubin (right) the day he was exonerated in November 2018. (Image: Phelan Ebanhack)

Robert DuBoise was exonerated in 2020 after spending 37 years in prison, including three on death row, for a murder he didn’t commit. He is one of nine exonerees who are barred from receiving compensation because Florida is the only state in the country to prevent exonerees with prior convictions from being compensated. Robert’s claim to compensation should have been clear. But solely because he received probation when he was 17 for two minor non-violent offenses, the law says he isn’t owed any compensation for the decades unjustly taken from him. Hear more about Robert’s story in his own words in this video, featured as part of our partnership with the NFL and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Orlando Boquete was exonerated in 2006 after spending 13 years in prison for burglary and attempted sexual battery he didn’t commit. Two years after his wrongful conviction, Orlando escaped Florida’s Glades Correctional Institution — a place he never should have been — and lived on the run as a fugitive from injustice for 11 years before he was caught and wrongfully reincarcerated. Because of Orlando’s non-violent criminal record from the years he was a prison escapee, Florida will not compensate Orlando for the time he lost. Hear more about Orlando’s incredible story in the new short film: A Run for Freedom, a collaboration with VeryTaste.