55 year old Florida man, Thomas Raynard James was exonerated after serving 31 years in state jail for a c’rime he did not commit. Under Florida law, James should qualify for more than $1.5 million for his 1991 wrongful conviction for the alleged m’urder of an elderly Miami man in a home invasion and r’obbery but there is a loophole that disqualifies him from receiving compensation.
Thomas Raynard James left the prison after spending 31 years in April. He remarked, “I’m not angry. I’m hurt,” James said. “I’m hurt by it.” Prosecutor Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle reviewed the case and said that a key witness renounced their story, and Thomas passed a polygraph test. Another man with similar name has been interrogated in connection with the c’rime .Attorney’s office reviewed almost 10,000 pages of documents related to the case before freeing Thomas.
Though state law awards Floridians $50,000 for each year of a w’rongful c’onviction, James was ineligible because he was co’nvicted for another crime before he was sentenced to life in prison in January 1991 for m’urder.
Florida’s “clean hands” provision prevent those who committed crimes while in prison and before they were wrongfully convicted from being paid. Thomas was convicted of resisting an officer with violence one year before his arrest for McKinnon’s m’urder.The state of Florida now told James that state did you wrong and we now know that you are innocent, but state don’t owe you anything. Reports reveal that only one person has qualified for compensation with this law and got $2 million over the past five years. In almost 30 convictions that were cleared since the law passed in 2008, the state has compensated only four people under the law.
Thomas James was convicted while he was 23 years old but the amount for which he is ineligible is lesser comparing to how much he lost as he struggles to start his life over. After releasing from the prison, Thomas remarked, “It’s a small thing, really small, in comparison to what I had lost.”