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Editorial take: Here's why one important NC law is flawed, Part 2

We took an initial look in our immediately preceding blog post at what we think most North Carolinians would regard as a very important state law, namely, compensation for persons wrongfully imprisoned and subsequently pardoned.

Some critics of that statutory enactment believe it is fundamentally flawed, despite its well-intentioned goal.

A recent editorial in one North Carolina newspaper makes eminently clear where the alleged injustice resides.

A quick hypothetical makes the case. Say that I am a person qualified to make a claim on state money, being just pardoned for a crime I did not commit. The state duly pays me (up to $50,000 for every year I was wrongfully behind bars, up to a maximum of $750,000). My family greatly -- and obviously -- appreciates the cash.

That same pardon came a bit late for a fellow prisoner, though, who was convicted on the same charge that I was. He died in prison waiting in vain for justice during his lifetime.

His family receives nothing.

The difference in outcome, as noted in the above editorial, resides in narrowly construed statutory wording that leads to inconsistent and unfair outcomes and wreaks "a second injustice" in select cases on wrongly convicted prisoners and their families.

The law enables "any person" who was wrongfully imprisoned on a felony charge and later pardoned after being adjudged innocent to apply for compensation.

Notably, there is no additional wording to the effect of "or any of his or her immediate family members in the event the pardoned individual is deceased."

That wording can lead to -- in fact, has led to -- uneven and inequitable results.

It needs to be adjusted by state legislators, notes the above-cited opinion piece.

Quite simply, the law needs to be amended "to allow survivors to petition for compensation if the wrongly imprisoned person has died."

It would seem hard to logically argue against that recommendation.

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