Wilton Dedge should be compensated by the state for the 22 years he spent in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, say some Florida legislators. “I’m tough on crime,” Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, was quoted by the Orlando Sentinel. “But when a person is truly wrongfully convicted, he deserves compensation.” Haridopolos, chairman of the Senate’s criminal-justice committee, said called Dedge to let him know he was trying to help. Legislators are researching wrongful conviction compensation laws in other states, and are considering a private-claims bill for Dedge. “I was kind of hoping someone would step in,” said Dedge, who was released last month after DNA tests proved he was not the man who raped a 17-year-old girl in 1981. Dedge said his parents spent nearly all their life savings on legal fees and on supporting him while he was in prison. “I feel bad about that and I want to pay them back,” he said.
Dedge has received nothing from the state — not the $100 or the other benefits Florida gives even its most violent ex-convicts upon release. Only 18 states and the federal government have laws compensating people who are wrongly convicted, with payments ranging from $100 per day for every day served to a limit of $5,000 no matter how much time was spent behind bars. Because Florida has no compensation law, Dedge must sue the state or get a a private-claims bill passed in the legisalture for any monetary satisfaction.