The Legislature has approved a measure that allows people who were wrongfully convicted to receive a minimum of $50,000 a year for each year they were behind bars.
The House unanimously concurred Monday with changes made by the Senate last week when that chamber unanimously passed the bill. It now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee, who is expected to sign it into law. Washington will join 27 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government with similar laws on the books.
Rep. Tina Orwall, a Democrat from Normandy Park who sponsored the bill, cited four exonerated men who all served prison time, two of whom testified before lawmakers this year.
“We can’t give them 15 or 17 years back; we can provide them with compensation to help rebuild their lives,” she said.
The measure allows people who were wrongfully convicted to file a claim in superior court for damages against the state. Someone would have to show their conviction was reversed or vacated based on significant evidence of actual innocence.
Currently, the only option is to sue on some basis other than the fact that they were wrongfully convicted, such as police or prosecutorial misconduct.