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Bill proposes monetary relief for exonoree

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A man recently released from prison after DNA evidence proved his innocence may receive $100,000 if one Indiana representative's bill passes.

Rep. Vern Tincher, D-Terre Haute, has proposed House Bill 1162 to provide relief to David. L. Scott, who went to prison after being convicted of murdering 89-year-old W. Terre Haute resident Loretta Keith in 1984.

According to news reports, Scott was convicted largely in part because of a taped admission he made saying he killed Keith. Scott, a special needs student, was 17 years old when he was sent to prison for 80 years. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld his conviction, but reduced his sentence to 50 years.

DNA evidence eventually cleared Scott and he was released from prison in 2008.

Scott's story came to the attention of Tincher after he received an e-mail from his local television station asking legislators what they could do for Scott. Tincher asked for an interim study committee on compensation for wrongful incarceration as well as expungement of someone's criminal history record when they are released from prison based on DNA evidence.

"We had our day with the policy sentencing commission and had several people testify," Tincher said. "They chose to take no action. I had a bill drafted that provides compensation to David Scott on humanitarian purposes."

The bill specifies that the $100,000 in relief is not payment of damages but is provided only for "humanitarian consideration for the wrongs done to David L. Scott." Tincher said the amount, which would come from the state general fund, is minimal compensation, but will allow him to get on with his life.

Tincher said 21 states, plus Washington, D.C., and the federal government have statutory laws addressing compensation for people who have been wrongfully convicted and incarcerated, but he decided to tailor this bill just for Scott instead of one that would generally compensate people wrongfully convicted. He did say he may pursue a bill like that in the future.

"I believe we are going to have more individuals released from incarceration based on DNA evidence," Tincher said. "Most cases, even as recent as 10 to 15 years ago, didn't have all the capabilities of testing DNA as they do now."

HB 1162 has been assigned to the House Committee on Public Policy. The Scott case also prompted Tincher to author HB 1163, which deals with expungement of a criminal history record for someone who has been released from prison based on DNA evidence. That bill is before the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Codes.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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