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Opinion: NC law compensating wrongfully convicted flawed

To any person preoccupied with notions of justice, wrongful incarceration stands at the apex of horrors that can confront any American. Being wrongfully accused and convicted of a crime and being subsequently confined to a prison cell is the height of injustice and an outcome that is truly frightening to contemplate.

Much less experience. We do know, of course, that innocent people languish behind bars, and individuals with any measure of compassion truly empathize with them.

And we celebrate upon hearing news occasionally that wrongfully convicted persons are released from prison. And few people would begrudge the money that some states pay those persons to compensate for their years of suffering behind bars.

North Carolina is among those states, with state statutory law providing that an innocent person who is pardoned can receive up to $50,000 for each year that he or she was wrongfully locked up. As noted in a state newspaper editorial piece discussing compensation for wrongful conviction, that amount is capped at $750,000.

Although such money -- no amount of money -- can of course ever compensate, even remotely, for years lost in a penitentiary lock-up far removed from society, the offering equates to society's recognition that a wrong was committed and is being recognized. The paycheck is akin to an olive branch; it is all that the public can do.

The above-cited editorial fully sanctions such payments, noting that, "If the state has taken that time through a miscarriage of justice, it owes repayment."

While noting that, though, writers in the Greensboro News-Record further state that North Carolina's law addressing compensation contains a writing flaw that is resulting in grave injustice for some people affected by a wrongful incarceration.

We'll take a closer look at that assertion in our next blog post.

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