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A bill to establish a wrongfully convicted compensation fund gets another hearing in Frankfort

Louisville GOP Representative Jason Nemes and supporters of a wrongful conviction compensation measure testify in Frankfort 06-06-24
Stu Johnson
Louisville GOP Representative Jason Nemes and supporters of a wrongful conviction compensation measure testify in Frankfort 06-06-24

This first week of interim state legislative committee meetings included a review of a previously considered wrongful conviction compensation measure. The bill sponsor is predicting House passage in 2025, if the legislation gets to the floor.

The bill, among other things, allows for $65,000 a year, primarily in state funds for the period of time a person was wrongfully incarcerated. Louisville GOP Representative Jason Nemes.

“And in this situation when the government makes a mistake and we convict somebody…we don’t just get to say “my bad” and open up the prison doors. We have responsibilities,” said Nemes.

Nemes said some 21 people were wrongfully convicted, but those who received a civil judgment, about half, would not be eligible.

Exoneree Edwin Chandler spent ten years in prison. He told lawmakers, upon release, he went for some 100 job interviews and was told, sorry, we can’t hire a convicted felon.

“That is tremendous for a person who hasn’t done anything..who needs to reboot their lives who just can’t,” said Chandler.

House Judiciary Committee Member Jason Petrie said there remain mechanics of the bill that still need attention and said the issuing of a ‘certificate of innocence’ was a strange concept.

“So, when we say prove innocent I want to make sure people look past the catch phrase of innocent or prove your innocence. You’re asking a system to do something it’s not designed to do,” said Petrie.

Jason Nemes said individuals would be required to go to circuit court and prove they didn’t commit the felony crime. And Nemes is confident it can be carried out in court. The Louisville representative also expressed confidence the wrongfully convicted compensation measure can pass next year, if it gets to the House floor.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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