Wrongly convicted in son’s death, Kristine Bunch will be compensated

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A woman who spent 17 years in prison for a fire that killed her 3-year-old son will be compensated by Indiana for a wrongful conviction.

Kristine Bunch was declared eligible Thursday by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute’s Board of Trustees. It wasn’t immediately known how much she will receive, although the wrongly convicted are eligible for $50,000 for every year in prison, under state law.

There was “clear and convincing evidence” that Bunch was innocent, said Jackson County Judge AmyMarie Travis, one of the board members.

“I won’t ever get my day in court, but I got to hear it from these people here,” Bunch told the Indianapolis Star. “So that closes a chapter and gives me a different outlook on things because I feel like it’s just been a black cloud that I’ve carried around.”

She said she was going home “to play with my puppies.”

The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned Bunch’s conviction in 2012 after lawyers argued that arson evidence from the 1995 fire was wrong and key documents had been withheld from the defense before trial. Bunch was freed in 2012.

Prosecutors in Decatur County declined to put Bunch through a second trial.

Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2019 signed into law House Enrolled Act 1150, which provides monetary awards for exonerated prisoners. The approval of Bunch’s eligibility came shortly after reports last month that no wrongly convicted person had yet been approved for potential compensation.

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