Ever since DNA examination of evidence became available in 1989, exonerations have become far more frequent and decisive, particularly in Texas. It leads one to wonder just how much evidence it took to lock up a suspect a few less scientific decades ago.
On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill that would to give wrongly convicted persons more than just the state's sympathy: more like $80,000 per year of confinement, 120 hours of paid tuition at a career center or public college, and an annuity for a lifetime of income.
The list of recompense goes on for those who die while incarcerated. Families of those victims will receive a lump sum payment.
Applicable families include the loved ones of Tim Cole, a teacher and son of a Bell Helicopter manager, for whom the bill is named. He spent roughly 13 years in prison for a rape he did not commit when he died of an asthma attack in 1999.
However, the bill stipulates that if victims accept the money, they forfeit their right to sue the state.
Released prisoners prior to the bill received only $50,000 in two payments. Thus far Texas has paid a total of $9 million to 46 wrongly convicted people, 18 of whom were from Dallas. In the entire country, over 200 people have been cleared.
Holly LaFon has written and worked for various local publications including D Magazine and Examiner.