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Wrongly Convicted Colorado Man Could Get $1.2M

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Robert Dewey was wrongly convicted and served 18 years in prison before being released. (credit: CBS)

Robert Dewey was wrongly convicted and served 18 years in prison before being released. (credit: CBS)

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) – A Mesa County man who inspired a new law compensating the wrongly convicted is nearing a monetary settlement with the state.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office and Mesa County District Attorney’s Office said in a joint motion filed last week that Robert Dewey is owed about $1.2 million, The Daily Sentinel reported.

The 52-year-old was convicted of a 1994 rape and murder but was cleared by DNA evidence 17 years later. After his release, Dewey was living in poverty.

Dewey’s case inspired a new law granting exonerated former prisoners or their survivors up to $70,000 for every year wrongly spent behind bars for a felony conviction. Former convicts have to be provably innocent, not cleared on legal technicalities or appeals.

A hearing on Dewey’s petition is scheduled later this month. District Court Judge Richard Gurley must make a finding that Dewey’s petition shows he’s “actually innocent” in the rape and murder of 19-year-old Jacie Taylor in Palisade.

Should Gurley grant the petition, the Colorado court administrator’s office will have 14 days to issue an initial $100,000 payment. Funds will be distributed in annual installments of $100,000, and Dewey would have to complete a “financial management instruction course” to continue receiving the funds after the first payment, according to the new law.

Dewey will have to obtain health insurance. Colorado could slash annual payouts by $10,000 for failure to provide proof of insurance. He’ll also have an education opportunity: Tuition and fees would be waived for any state-supported higher education institution.

Colorado could withdraw from the compensation if Dewey wins a civil judgment exceeding the total compensation amount, or, if he’s convicted of a class 1 or class 2 felony.

Dewey’s petition for compensation also includes a request that Gurley issue an order to expunge, “as if such events had never taken place,” all records in the case.

The DA’s office, however, argues that the records are needed in the pending prosecution of 41-year-old Douglas Thames, the man scheduled for trial next year in Taylor’s murder.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Julie Selsberg wrote in a response that information about Dewey’s conviction, as well as his DNA profile, have already been removed from state and national computer databases.

Jacie Taylor’s body was found June 4, 1994, partially clothed in a bathtub in her Palisade apartment. A Mesa County jury convicted Dewey in October 1996 of first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Dewey was released from prison April 30, 2012, after new DNA testing didn’t link him to crucial evidence in the case, while implicating Thames.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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