A Brevard County, Fla., man who spent 22 years in prison for a rape he did not commit could get no more than $200,000 in compensation under a proposal approved by a Florida House committee Wednesday. For Wilton Dedge, that works out to about $9,000 for each year served. The 43-year-old contractor spent more than half his life in prison before DNA evidence proved his innocence last year, reports the St. Petersburg Times.
Legislators who voted for the proposal called it “a first step.” Critics assailed it as “shameful” and “woefully inadequate.” Dedge’s lawyer rejected it out of hand. Dedge was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in 1982 after being convicted. Under Florida’s doctrine of sovereign immunity, Dedge could receive no more than $200,000 unless he filed a claims bill in the Legislature – a costly process that can take years to resolve. At least 19 states have laws to compensate people who are falsely imprisoned but Florida does not, and the case has prompted the Legislature to explore how to handle all future false imprisonment cases.