Friday, September 6, 2013

What happens to those wrongfully convicted once they are freed? Sometimes one gets a little justice

Robert Dewey speaks to the media moments after being released
from the Colorado Department of corrections in Grand Junction, Colo.,
after serving a life sentence for murder.
Dewey was released April 30, 2012, after spending nearly 18 years in prison.
Photo by William Woody, Special to the Denver Post.


Last August, I wrote a story for this site entitled "What happens to those wrongfully convicted once they are freed? 27 states offer restitution – the rest just say “oops…sorry” -  the story of Robert Dewey, a 31 year old man when he was arrested and convicted of the rape and murder of 19 year old, Jacie Taylor, in Palisade, CO, in 1994 .  He received a sentence of “life” in prison in 1996.

Dewey’s post-conviction attorney, Danyel Joffe, and The Innocence Project worked to secure an exoneration from all charges questioning the evidence used against him – evidence destroyed , mishandled and test results dubiously reported by “experts”.  On April 30, 2012, Robert Dewey was exonerated.  Robert Dewey was freed, finally, from the prison cell, in which he lived for over 6,000 days.

The Denver Post ran the story of Mr. Dewey's exoneration and subsequent release adding the following quotes from the judge and Mr. Dewey's attorney:


“It’s really a pretty humbling day for a lot of people involved in the criminal-justice system,” District Judge Brian Flynn was quoted as saying in the Denver Post

“Mr. Dewey’s case seemed to be one where someone was convicted because a jury wanted to blame someone,” His attorney, Danyel Jaffe was quoted as saying.   “How do you set a price on 17 years of someone’s life? It’s something we’re going to look at down the road”



Robert Dewey, center, embraces his mother Donna, left, and father Jim,
moments after being released from the Colorado Department of corrections in Grand Junction, Colo.,
after serving a life sentence for murder. Dewey was released  April 30, 2012,
after spending nearly 18 years in prison.
Photo by William Woody, Special to the Denver Post.


And down the road they went....

In April, 2012, Mr. Dewey, newly released, was now 51; never received a “rehabilitation” plan in prison provided for prisoners with lesser sentences since, even though he was innocent, had been given a "Life" sentence - no job training or “Skills” training in prison; had no option for a civil case against the court because there was no prosecutorial misconduct (though there are questions of incompetence and manipulation of evidence by the police and the those charged with forensics testing); was not eligible for unemployment because his earning years were spent behind bars; left prison with a back injury that prevented him from doing many jobs and needed surgery to remove metal rods and plates that a prison surgeon put in his spine; had no income or job and limited skills [he went in when computers were barely out of DOS and pagers were the tether to the planet. Today it is cell phones (and texting) that are the ties that bind – along with Windows 8, IPods, Notebooks]; had to search for a job while carrying a prison record that stays on his reports; had to depend on food stamps and donations from individuals who learned of his plight [A civil engineer in CO heard that Dewey had been a motorcyclist and donated a motorcycle]; had a place to live - with his new girlfriend whom he met through a pen-pal program about a year ago, began writing every day.

Robert was looking at a struggle. In Colorado there was no compensation program in place for those wrongfully convicted men and women who are later released. There is no re-integration program into society. Colorado, like 23 other states basically said, “Sorry” and called it a wash.

Since his release, Robert Dewey has been living in poverty since his release.

Today, Mr. Dewey is looking at $1.2 million in a settlement as a result of a new law now in place, that was inspired, in part, by his ordeal. Lawmakers in Colorado, made aware of the case through publicity and the work of The Innocence Project as well as testimony by Mr. Dewey, wrote and passed a law giving compensation to wrongly convicted citizen.

Mr. Dewey is the first ever to receive compensation under the new law just signed by Governor Hick (Hickenlooper) this year...

The new law includes a formula that allows for compensation of $70,000 to $100,000 (cap) for each year served in prison. Mr. Dewey got the full $100,000 for every year. A little justice after 17 years of injustice ... being kept in prison, with little hope, for what looked like a lifetime, convicted of crimes he didn't commit.

It won't make up for 17 + years lost but it might just make his life easier, his future more secure. Something Mr. Dewey sorely needed.

More information on the Innocence Project here.

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