- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Andrew Johnson may have to go back to court if he wants Wyoming to compensate him for the 23 years he wrongfully spent behind bars.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports the House passed Senate File 30, which requires individuals exonerated based on DNA evidence to return to court to prove their innocence in return for compensation.

In the original version of the bill, anyone exonerated by DNA evidence would have been eligible for up to $500,000 without having to return to court. But Wednesday’s amendment added the court requirement.

The bill heads to a joint conference committee with the Senate before it can to Gov. Matt Mead’s desk.

DNA evidence exonerated Johnson of a 1989 rape conviction. The bill was to provide him compensation.

If the current version of the bill becomes law, it will be a massive road block for Johnson.

In July, the Laramie County district attorney dropped Johnson’s retrial after DNA evidence exonerated him.

When Johnson re-entered society, the 63-year-old was at the financial mercy of his family. He stayed at his sister’s house and hitched rides with other relatives to doctor appointments and the unemployment office.

Members of the Legislature have been working since 2008 to pass a bill that would compensate the wrongfully incarcerated. As Johnson’s exoneration played out in the courts, the Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee brought the bill back to the table for it to be introduced during the budget session.

It sailed through the Senate without any hurdles, but House lawmakers sought to add the extra step.

The amendment is inhumane, said Marla Kennedy, vice president of the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center.

“I don’t care if it’s 23 years or a day,” she said. “If you’re innocent and a court has said so, requiring them to go back again is unconscionable.”

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