Exonerees in Michigan are on their own when they leave prison. They do not receive compensation for the years spent unjustly in custody, unlike in 30 other states that provide such payments, says the Detroit Free Press. “If you’re an exoneree, you get nothing … You don’t have a parole officer. You walk out. That’s it,” said Caitlin Plummer of the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic. “They treat you as if it never happened and just send you out the door with nothing.” Since 1990, 55 people have been exonerated in Michigan and about 1,500 nationwide. Since the advent of DNA evidence, which plays a role in some, exonerations, more states have passed compensation laws.
Jamie Peterson, 40, won his freedom from a life sentence three months ago after being locked up since 1997 in the rape and murder of an elderly woman. Plummer and Peterson’s other lawyers convinced a judge to overturn the convictions because new DNA testing pointed to another man, who was arrested and now is awaiting trial. Peterson is not really free, in the purest sense of the word. His rape-and-murder convictions still were listed last week on the state Department of Corrections website. He has been living in a sort of group home, where he receives counseling that may help him live on his own. His attorneys say he is mentally impaired. As for paying bills, Peterson has relied on goodwill, and he has applied for government disability payments.