Public Safety & Justice

Minnesota May Be the Next State to Compensate the Wrongfully Imprisoned

January 29, 2014

Minnesota owes more than an apology when it sends innocent people to prison, two state lawmakers say.

Michael Hansen served almost seven years in prison, convicted of murdering his infant daughter until a new investigation proved that the little girl had fractured her skull when she fell from a shopping cart several days before her death.

When Koua Fong Lee’s Toyota suddenly accelerated, killing a woman and two children in the vehicle ahead, Lee was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and served nearly three years until the conviction was overturned on appeal.

Both men lost years of their lives, lost their jobs and missed seeing their children grow. Legislation proposed Tuesday by state Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, and state Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, would offer compensation — as much as $700,000, depending on the circumstances — to those who, too late, were proven not guilty.

Right now, Minnesota does more to help the guilty than the innocent, said Lesch, a prosecutor. Twenty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia, have laws offering compensation for wrongful imprisonment.

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