Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign in a few hours a bill that will compensate people wrongfully convicted in Washington state $50,000 for every year they are imprisoned.
In Washington state alone, as we report it today’s cover story, more than 50 people have been wrongly convicted of felonies over the last four decades. They include accused robbers, rapists and child molesters who in fact did not commit the crimes – but who now, thanks to the bill Inslee is signing, will at least likely receive compensation for those lost years.
They also include Ray Spencer, whose case is Exhibit A in showing how the law can be manipulated to convict anyone of a crime he or she didn’t commit: Spencer in fact was the law – a police officer in Vancouver, Wash. Today, 28 years after he was falsely imprisoned for raping his own children, and three years after all charges against him were officially dropped, he’s still in court attempting to clear his name.
“I lived. They didn’t count on that,” Spencer tells the Weekly. “The people who put me away assumed that being a police officer and ‘child molester,’ I would be killed in prison. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think was my last. But I managed to survive 20 years.”
Day after day, our courts manage to grind out a vast majority of fair verdicts, Paul Henderson says. But the ex-journalist and semi-retired Seattle private investigator whose probing has freed at least 23 wrongly convicted inmates from U.S. prisons, knows some of those decisions are flawed or flat-out wrong.
“These things just don’t happen accidentally,” says the Pulitzer Prize winner. “There’s always an element of misconduct.”