SEATTLE – Students from the UW School of Law Innocence Project Northwest Clinic (IPNW) will put their education in action by testifying in support of a bill that establishes a compensation statute for individuals wrongfully convicted in Washington State. UW law students Caroline Bercier, Amy Shebeck, Thomas Hudson and Michael Windle will take center stage during the House Committee on Judiciary’s public hearing on Jan. 12.
House Bill 2221 aims to assist those who are wrongly convicted by providing legal redress to recover $50,000 in damages per year of wrongful imprisonment.
The lobbying students are part of a partnership between IPNW and UW Law’s Legislative Advocacy Clinic. The collaboration trains students in legislative and public policy advocacy, focusing on appeal cases and helping exonerated individuals rebuild their lives. These students also helped IPNW Policy Staff Attorney Lara Zarowsky draft the bill.
The bill also recognizes that wrongly convicted individuals not only suffer injustice, but face challenges after exoneration.
Director of IPNW and UW Associate Professor of Law Jacqueline McMurtrie said that many pardoned prisoners have inadequate job skills or resume gaps that make it difficult for them to find jobs. Bercier, Shebeck, Hudson and Windle have had multiple work sessions with Rep. Tina Orwall (D) 33rd Legislative District who sponsors the compensation statue.
These students also helped IPNW Policy Staff Attorney Lara Zarowsky draft the bill.
McMurtrie said if passed, Washington State legislators will join policymakers of 27 other states and Washington D.C. who provide compensation to the wrongfully convicted.
Ted Bradford, Alan Northrop and Larry Davis, exonerees that were freed with the help of IPNW, will also testify at the hearing. All men were acquitted because of post-conviction DNA testing that proved their innocence.
Bradford was convicted of the rape and completed his nine-year prison sentence, but did not stop proving claiming his innocence. In 2010, he became the first person in Washington State to be acquitted by the Court of Appeals based on DNA testing.
In the same year, Davis and Northrop were acquitted after serving 17 years for being charged as codefendants in a rape and burglary trial.
If the bill passes this hearing it will move on to the agenda of the fiscal committee, where a similar bill was dropped last year.
McMurtrie said: “It’s going to be an uphill battle.”
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