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Advocates for exonerated former inmates outraged over compensation case dismissals

Joe Linstroth
Michigan Radio
Konrad Montgomery spent more than three years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. His attempt to seek compensation under the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act has been denied by the Court of Claims.

Lawyers for wrongfully convicted ex-prisoners are crying foul over the dismissal of their clients claims on the grounds of a missed deadline that they dispute.

The exonerated former inmates are seeking damages under the recent Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act. The 2016 law is intended to compensate people for the years they were wrongly imprisoned.

Gabi Silver represents one of the ex-prisoners, Konrad Montgomery, who spent more than three years in prison for a crime he did not commit. 

Silver said the new law specifically gives wrongfully convicted former inmates 18 month to file a claim.

But the Court of Claims agreed with Attorney General Bill Schuette's office that the deadline is governed by a 47-year-old statute that sets it at six months.

Silver said she is appealing the denial of her client's claim.

Silver said when the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act was being drafted, the attorney general's office supported an 18-month statute of limitations.

"So we believed that it was a stand-alone statute and that we had 18 months in which to file these claims," said Silver.

"I don't think it was anticipated that people who were exonerated by newly discovered evidence were going to be treated this way by the AG's office," said Silver.

"You're talking about people who lost everything when they went to prison," Silver said.

According to a written statement from Andrea Bitely, spokesperson for the attorney general's office, "Our job is to enforce state law and to make sure that procedure is followed. The Court of Claims has a set of rules you have to follow. We are enforcing the rule that attorneys have to provide notice by the six month mark of their intent to seek compensation for their clients."