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Louisiana's unreasonable standard for exoneree compensation

Wrongful conviction continues to be one of the most pressing problems facing the U.S. criminal justice system. In recent years, the Innocence Project and other advocacy groups have helped exonerate numerous individuals who spent decades in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.

In addition to their freedom, these exonerated individuals deserve to at least be compensated financially. And while Louisiana does allow wrongfully convicted defendants to seek compensation, defendants here are offered less than in other states. Moreover, in order to be compensated, they must meet a standard higher than “not guilty.” They have the nearly impossible task of proving that they are “factually innocent.”

This is the frustrating barrier currently facing a wrongfully convicted man who spent 15 years imprisoned and on Death Row. When his conviction was reexamined several years ago, prosecutors determined that his confession had been false. The confession was the key piece of evidence linking him to the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl.

Now he must prove his factual innocence. How can someone prove a negative? Short of solving the murder himself and bringing in the real killer, what can he say or do to prove “that he did not commit the crime or any other crime based on the same set of facts”? If this is the standard that must be met for exoneree compensation, why offer such compensation at all?

In papers recently filed with the court regarding the exoneree’s quest for compensation, two attorneys wrote that “Louisiana shamefully stands by its misdeeds, and has now created a mockery of the compensation statute that is supposed to reward wrongfully convicted defendants through a summary proceeding by requiring full-scale litigation that no exoneree can afford to mount.”

Source: The Times-Picayune, "Louisiana challenges former Death Row inmate's request for wrongful conviction compensation," Paul Purpura, June 18, 2014

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Meet Attorney Guillory

Attorney Joshua S. Guillory was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon graduating high school from Alexandria Senior High, he enrolled in classes at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree. Josh was a member of Mu Kappa Tau, a national honor society for marketing majors, while attending... Read More

Joshua S. Guillory

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