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Wrongful Conviction Compensation Bill Resurfaces In State Legislature

Proposal Would Increase State Payments To Wrongfully Convicted

Wisconsin state Capitol
Laura Zimmerman/WPR

People who were wrongfully convicted of crimes in Wisconsin could receive more money under a proposal in the state Legislature.

Under the bill, people who are wrongfully convicted could be awarded up to a total of $1 million. Current law sets that cap at $25,000.

Fred Saecker served six years in prison on rape charges that were eventually overturned based on DNA evidence. He spoke at a public hearing Thursday in the Capitol in support of the bill.

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“My six long years in prison and additional year spent in county jail waiting for the two trials were filled with birthdays, holidays, celebrations of loved ones I could not attend,” Saecker said. “They were filled with moments that I wanted to be a part of, but could not.”

Supporters of the bill have been attempting to pass the measure for years. It has bipartisan support.

Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, is one of the bill’s sponsors. He says the current annual payment of $5,000 to qualifying individuals isn’t enough.

“That’s grossly inadequate,” Kooyenga said at the public hearing. ““I don’t think anybody would agree to the humiliation and the pain and suffering that goes with the destruction of meaningful relationships, the destruction of meaningful work that comes with that experience.”

The State Bar of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, and YWCA Madison have all registered support for the measure.

The bill has been approved by an Assembly committee, but has yet to be voted on in the Senate.