Joseph White spent 19 years behind bars in Nebraska for rape and murder before new DNA evidence prompted a judge to toss out the conviction and order a new trial. The 45-year-old walked out of the Nebraska Penitentiary last month with a $521 check – the earnings from his prison job – to start his new life, repots the Omaha World-Herald. The legislature’s Judiciary Committee chairman and a departing state senator say that White’s case demands a new look at whether the state should have a law, like those in 25 other states, that allows compensation for people who have been wrongly imprisoned.
In Iowa, for instance, a person wrongly convicted can receive $50 for every day spent in prison, with a maximum of $18,250, and can also be awarded up to $25,000 a year in lost wages. In three states, including tough-on-crime Texas, those wrongly imprisoned can receive up to $50,000 a year for their time behind bars – twice as much if the time was spent on death row. Lawmakers would have to consider issues such as who would qualify as “exonerated,” how much compensation was fair and what process would be needed to obtain it. In White’s case, prosecutors have six months in which to call for a new trial. He was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder. He testified that he had nothing to do with the slaying.