BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A House committee put the brakes on a bill that would have loosened the requirements for those looking to get money from the state for wrongful convictions.
HB 1116, by Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, failed to get out of the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice with a vote
of 6-9. The vote fell along both racial and party lines.
The bill would have modified the meaning of "factual innocence," which is needed for those wrongfully convicted to get money back. Currently, state law requires that a person also not be guilty of "any crime based upon the same set of facts used in his original conviction."
In other words, if the facts indicate they may be involved in another crime, they would not be compensated.
"It allows the state to accuse somebody of a very minor crime, as an example, perhaps jaywalking," said Kristin Wenstrom, an attorney with the Innocence Project New Orleans.
Glover's bill would have revised the statute so that individuals could not be accused of other crimes – only lesser versions of the original conviction. For example, manslaughter is a "lesser included offense" of murder.
"Empathy is one thing but compensation is another, and if we prohibit that family from being properly compensated, I don't think that's right. I don't think that's fair," said Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, who voted in favor of Glover's bill.
According to a lawyer from the Innocence Project New Orleans, the statute has only been used to block compensation to one individual: Glenn Ford and his family.
Ford was put on death row after being charged in the 1983 murder of Shreveport jeweler Isadore Rozeman. He spent nearly three decades in prison before he was exonerated in 2014. Ford died of lung cancer in June 2015.
Prior to his release, prosecutors issued a motion to vacate the conviction, writing that new evidence showed Ford "was neither present at, nor a participant in, the robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman."
Despite his release, last month the state denied Ford's family's request for monetary compensation.
"The state recognizes that after three decades we made a mistake, you let him go, and then you say you don't owe him. There's something wrong with that," Glover said.
The state used the current compensation statute, saying he was an accessory to the robbery that preceded the jeweler's killing and thus should not receive money.
Members of the Rozeman family as well as the head of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association (LDAA) objected to the Glover bill.
"The only innocent victim on Nov. 5, 1983 in a little 1,000-square foot combination shop home on Stoner Avenue in Shreveport was my uncle. Glenn Ford was certainly not an innocent man," said Phillip Rozeman, the nephew of Isadore Rozeman.
"If you open this up, and it's a policy decision, you open it up to all these people who may not be innocent at all, may have dirty hands," said Pete Adams, the executive director of the LDAA.
Glover said he intends to bring the bill back up for consideration next year.