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Hearings start to compensate exonerated prisoners

Cheyna Roth
Marwin McHenry received over $175,000 after spending four years in prison.

The first hearings to compensate people who’ve been wrongfully convicted started today, but some left the courtroom unsatisfied.


The hearings come after a new law was signed at the end of last year. That law provides for wrongfully convicted people to be compensated $50,000 for each year they were in prison.


Two of the four cases were dismissed without any money given to the former inmates. One of the requirements to get money is that new evidence shows the former inmate didn’t commit the crime. A judge said the two cases didn’t have new evidence.


Wolfgang Mueller is an attorney for a prisoner who was not compensated.


“This bill has so many holes with respect to insufficiency of evidence that you leave somebody who spent five years in prison out in the cold with no compensation,” Mueller said. “That is absolutely unjust.”


But the legislation's sponsor, Senator Steve Bieda, D-Warren, says that the law had to have parameters.


Bieda said he worked on the legislation for 12 years and is happy with how the hearings went. 

“As Americans, and as human beings, we cherish the ideal of justice and we think that justice was done,” he said.


Marwin McHenry is one of the wrongfully convicted who’ll be compensated. He’ll get over $175,000 for the time he served in prison.


McHenry said he’s grateful for the money he got but, “It’s never enough, no dollar amount is enough for the time. Really nothing can make up for the time that was lost.”


McHenry is in his mid-twenties. He said he plans to go into real estate.


So far, 25 people have filed for wrongful imprisonment compensation. That’s out of 66 people who have been exonerated in Michigan since 1992.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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