- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii lawmakers are considering a proposal that would require the state to pay $50,000 to the wrongfully convicted for each year they were imprisoned.

The House bill passed the Judiciary Committee last week. It must be approved by the House Finance Committee and go before the full House for a vote before it heads to the Senate for debate, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/1QPU3j5).

The legislation has the support of state Attorney General Doug Chin, making it different from previous versions of the bill, which failed in the Legislature last year. Chin testified against last year’s measures, which drew concerns over eligibility criteria, levels of compensation for wrongful convictions and adequate protections for the state.

The new bill also includes recommendations from a 16-member special committee comprised of judges, attorneys and government officials.

“This is a real tight, clean bill,” said Bill Harrison, a criminal defense attorney who served on the special committee.

Last week’s hearing brought out a multitude of the bill’s supporters, including longtime advocate Kat Brady, coordinator for the Community Alliance on Prisons, and attorneys who have worked with the Hawaii Innocence Project.

DeMont Conner, a convicted felon who has become an advocate for victims and the incarcerated since his release, told the committee it was time for the state “to step up to the plate and also be held accountable.”

“I was in prison for about 27 years total and the majority of people with me were pretty much all guilty. We all sit there, we talk, we know. But for a very few in there, there’s some serious questions regarding why they are there,” he said. He added that he is not one of the innocent.

Hawaii is one of 20 states that does not offer compensation for individuals who have been wrongfully convicted.

Three people have been exonerated in Hawaii since 1989, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, a database maintained by the University of Michigan Law School. The database includes Mark Anderson, who spent nine days in jail for terroristic threatening, and Shaun Rodrigues, who served more than seven years behind bars on kidnapping and robbery charges.

In 2011, a Maui Circuit Court judge invalidated Alvin Jardine’s conviction. He was accused of raping a woman in 1990.

Nearly five years after his release, “he is still working to rebuild his life,” said Matson Kelley, an attorney for Jardine.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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