Today's Tampa Tribune coverage of Florida Governor Charlie Crist's speech at the opening of the legislative session referenced financial compensation for wrongfully convicted men such as Alan Crotzer, the former St. Petersburg resident who served 24 years in jail for a rape he did not commit. Bills are pending in the House and Senate that would pay Crotzer $1.25 million.
"Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, who has pushed for Crotzer's compensation, said he is gratified that House and Senate leaders as well as the governor appear ready to pay Crotzer's claim in spite of the budget pressures."
"It's something that we need to do," Lawson said. "All you need to think about is what it's like to spend 20-some years in prison for something you didn't do."
This would be welcome news to Mr. Crotzer, and to anyone who champions justice. He was released in January, 2006 on newly discovered DNA evidence, largely through the efforts of the Innocence Project of Florida. www.floridainnocence.org
After his release, he still had to fight to get his voting rights restored, due to a Florida law that strips convicted felons of the right to vote for life, even after they've served their sentence and paid all restitution. (From Siberia With Love, October 2006)
Florida lawmakes shouldn't waste another second deliberating on this issue. In the world Alan Crotzer inhabited for nearly a quarter century, money talks and b*!!@#%t walks. In the capitalist economy outside the prison walls, it is the same.
Although $1.25 million will never buy back the twenty four and a half years Alan Crotzer lost to the criminal justice system, it is at the least, an acknowledgement of the hell he lived through.
If money talks, and bullshit walks, maybe that $1.25 million will discourage future mistakes like the one that put an innocent man away.