Michigan Runs Out of Funds to Pay Its Exonerees

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The state of Michigan owes Nathaniel Hatchett $500,000, but the two-page court document ordering compensation for his wrongful rape conviction won’t feed him or pay his rent. Hatchett, arrested for sexual assault at 17, spent 10 years in prison before DNA evidence exonerated him. Hatchett is eligible for $50,000 for each year he spent in prison, and a judge ordered the state to pay Hatchett the full $500,000 by Jan. 16, the Detroit News reports. But Hatchett, who is unemployed, and others who were wrongfully convicted, are still waiting for their money. State officials say there’s not enough in the fund to pay exonerated ex-prisoners.

A spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says, “The current balance in the fund is so low that a single case or two could deplete it.  We cannot and should not lead people to believe they will be compensated for their wrongful incarceration if we are unwilling to appropriate the necessary funds.” The exoneration fund contains about $1.6 million — $400,000 less than the $2 million it owes just one wrongfully convicted murderer, Richard Phillips, who spent 46 years in prison before his case was overturned, making him the longest-serving wrongfully convicted inmate in U.S. history, according to the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan. “The state screwed these guys over by wrongfully convicting them, and now they’re screwing them again by withholding money that’s lawfully theirs,” commented Hatchett’s attorney, Wolfgang Mueller.

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