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Many innocent people serving time in Texas prisons

According to the New York Times, Texas leads the country for DNA-proven wrongful convictions.
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    February 08, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- It's heartbreaking for the families of people convicted of crimes to see their loved ones go to jail, but for those who are wrongfully convicted, it's a devastating nightmare. Just the idea of being put in prison for a crime you didn't commit is enough to make anyone feel unsafe.

According to the New York Times, Texas leads the country for DNA-proven wrongful convictions. Over a 25-year period, 117 people in our state have been proven innocent and set free. It's unknown how many other innocent people still reside in state prisons, or, worse, have been executed.

High-Profile Exonerations Show How Innocent People Can Spend Lifetime In Jail

CNN reported on the story of a Williamson County man who spent almost 25 years in prison after being convicted of his wife's murder in 1986. Although the man had been at work at the time of the killing, a jury still convicted him in the absence of any other suspects or evidence linking him to his wife's death. Much later, it was found that the prosecutor had withheld evidence, including the couple's young son's description of a man who had attacked his mother. Through DNA evidence, a convicted felon was determined to have committed the murder - but not before he had already killed another Texas woman.

There was also the well-publicized case of a Texas couple who ran a day care and - despite no criminal evidence - were convicted in 1992 of performing rituals, torturing and sexually abusing the children under their care. Finally having their convictions overturned, the couple was released in November after spending 21 years behind bars, said Texas Monthly.

Last year, Governor Perry signed into law the Michael Morton Act, which requires prosecutors of criminal cases to give evidence to defense attorneys without a court order, on a defendant's request.

Too many innocent people are spending time in Texas prisons. According to the Innocence Project of Texas, if just 1 percent of the 150,000 prisoners in Texas are innocent, that would still mean over 1,500 people who have been wrongfully convicted. At this time, there are about 500 active cases that the Innocence Project of Texas is working on.

Many states don't have adequate programs to make up for lost years, says Forbes. It can be hard for those who have spent years in prison to adjust to life on the outside, and finding employment can be especially difficult. The Innocence Project recommends states compensate wrongfully convicted people a minimum of $50,000, untaxed, for every year in prison. Texas has some of the country's best laws on compensating for wrongful convictions, which include:
- $80,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment.
- $25,000 per year spent as a registered sex offender on parole.
- Compensation for child support payments.
- Up to 120 hours of tuition at a public institution of higher learning or career center.
- Reintegration services.
- Ability to buy into the Texas State Employee Health Plan.

While these laws can monetarily compensate a person for wrongful imprisonment, they can't bring back the years lost. Many wrongfully convicted prisoners miss out on their children growing up, the birth of their grandchildren and even the deaths of loved ones. They can also spend many lonely years deprived of the companionship of a spouse or significant other. It's important for people who have been wrongfully accused of a crime to contact an experienced defense attorney immediately to defend their rights.

Article provided by Law Offices of Jeffrey C. Grass
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