Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 106

04/07/2015 08:00 AM House STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 77(STA) Out of Committee
Moved HJR 19 Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Moved HB 55 Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
           HB 55-COMPENSATION FOR WRONGFUL CONVICTION                                                                       
8:22:52 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN  announced that the  next order of business  was HOUSE                                                               
BILL  NO.  55, "An  Act  relating  to compensation  for  wrongful                                                               
conviction and imprisonment."                                                                                                   
8:23:10 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SCOTT  KAWASAKI,  Alaska  State  Legislature,  as                                                               
prime sponsor, presented HB 55.   He asked the committee to think                                                               
about  the  events in  their  lives,  such as  weddings,  births,                                                               
graduations,  deaths, retirements,  and other  significant events                                                               
that had  occurred.   He further asked  the committee  to include                                                               
the creation of the Internet,  the terrorist attacks of September                                                               
11, 2001,  and globalization  of technology.   He then  asked the                                                               
committee  to imagine  that during  all that  time they  had been                                                               
incarcerated in  a small  prison cell  for a  crime they  had not                                                               
committed.  He stated that HB  55 sought to correct the suffering                                                               
of Alaskans who had been wrongfully incarcerated.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  KAWASAKI  stated   that  individuals  suffer  the                                                               
consequences  of their  mistakes;  however, the  State of  Alaska                                                               
suffers  no consequences  when  its legal  system  makes a  life-                                                               
altering  mistake  by  incarcerating   an  innocent  Alaskan  and                                                               
"stealing those  years away."   He said the  proposed legislation                                                               
would create  a mechanism to  provide financial  compensation for                                                               
those lost  years to  help the wrongfully  convicted get  back on                                                               
their  feet.    Under  HB 55,  the  exonerated  individual  would                                                               
receive $50,000  a year, with  a cap  of $2 million,  which meets                                                               
the  federal recommendations  under the  Federal Justice  for All                                                               
Act of 2004,  and that it is the threshold  most commonly used in                                                               
the  30  other states  that  currently  have wrongful  conviction                                                               
compensation  statutes.    Representative  Kawasaki  stated  that                                                               
while  no amount  of money  could truly  compensate for  the time                                                               
spent  wrongfully  incarcerated,  the   concept  was  to  provide                                                               
finances that  would help  the wrongfully  convicted get  back on                                                               
his/her feet,  reintegrate into society,  and start a  life after                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  KAWASAKI  said  the  proposed  legislation  would                                                               
proactively   protect  the   state  coffers   by  instituting   a                                                               
compensation plan  to help the reintegration  process rather than                                                               
waiting for those  who have been exonerated to sue  the state for                                                               
civil  damages.    He  reported  that  according  to  the  Alaska                                                               
Innocence  Project,  "the  average   statute  amount  is  roughly                                                               
$330,000  per  exonerated  individual, while  the  average  civil                                                               
award  amount is  about  $3.6  million."   He  said the  proposed                                                               
legislation  would  establish  a  $50,000/year  compensation  and                                                               
protect  the state  from future  civil  suits.   He related  that                                                               
while there  had not been  any exonerations in Alaska  that would                                                               
have  fallen  under  "this  current  statute,  as  written,"  the                                                               
overall rising wave of exonerations  over the past 15 years meant                                                               
that it was  just a matter of time before  it happened in Alaska.                                                               
Representative Kawasaki  concluded that the  proposed legislation                                                               
was  "a proactive  measure  that rights  the  state's wrongs  and                                                               
protects  us from  future lawsuits,  while  fulfilling our  moral                                                               
duty as stewards of the public justice system."                                                                                 
8:27:17 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LYNN related  that he  had  just seen  on television  that                                                               
someone in the  Lower 48 had just been exonerated  from death row                                                               
after about 30  years in prison, and he remarked  that he did not                                                               
know how  it would be  possible to adequately reimburse  a person                                                               
in  that  circumstance.   He  indicated  that  coming up  with  a                                                               
formula for compensation would depend  on many factors, including                                                               
how long the person had been  incarcerated, the age of the person                                                               
when  incarcerated, what  the person's  occupation  was, and  the                                                               
person's physical  condition.  He  asked the bill sponsor  how he                                                               
arrived at the proposed $50,000.                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KAWASAKI answered  that  amount  was roughly  the                                                               
average of the  amount the other states  had incorporated similar                                                               
statutes.   In response to Chair  Lynn, he said the  formula used                                                               
to  determine the  amount is  complex.   He  indicated that  when                                                               
litigation  is  involved, factors  such  as  whether or  not  the                                                               
individual  was in  the  prime  of his/her  life  are taken  into                                                               
CHAIR  LYNN expounded  on the  idea  that arriving  at a  formula                                                               
would be complicated because of all the variables involved.                                                                     
8:29:19 AM                                                                                                                    
REILY  LEONARD,  Staff,  Representative  Scott  Kawasaki,  Alaska                                                               
State Legislature,  on behalf  of Representative  Kawasaki, prime                                                               
sponsor,  related that  the  $50,000/year  threshold was  chosen,                                                               
because  that was  the amount  that Congress  had established  in                                                               
2004 in the  aforementioned Act.  He indicated  that Congress had                                                               
also established  a $100,000  threshold for  time spent  on death                                                               
row, which  was seen as  much more severe.   He said  some states                                                               
adopted that  standard, as  well; however,  he noted  that Alaska                                                               
does not  have the death  penalty, and  the sponsor chose  not to                                                               
include that factor.                                                                                                            
8:30:04 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  VAZQUEZ remarked  that although  it is  extremely                                                               
difficult to convict someone in Alaska  - doing so is more common                                                               
in the Lower 48  - she could envision in the  future there may be                                                               
someone who is wrongfully convicted [in Alaska].                                                                                
8:30:56 AM                                                                                                                    
KATHLEEN A. FREDERICK, Chief  Administrative Law Judge, Anchorage                                                               
Office, Office  of Administrative  Hearings (OAH),  Department of                                                               
Administration  (DOA), explained  the reason  the department  did                                                               
not submit  a fiscal note was  because at the present  time there                                                               
was no  way to determine  how many  claims would result  from the                                                               
proposed legislation.                                                                                                           
8:31:48 AM                                                                                                                    
BILL OBERLY, Executive Director,  Alaska Innocence Project (AIP),                                                               
stated  that  the  issue  brought  up  under  HB  55  is  one  of                                                               
importance to  AIP.   He said the  issue is  neither conservative                                                               
nor  liberal,  neither related  to  criminal  prosecution nor  to                                                               
criminal  defense, but  is  an issue  of justice.    He said  AIP                                                               
brought  Steve Barnes  - a  man who  was exonerated  in New  York                                                               
after about 24 years in prison - to Alaska.                                                                                     
CHAIR LYNN recollected having met Mr. Barnes.                                                                                   
MR. OBERLY  relayed that when  asked, Mr. Barnes  had illustrated                                                               
how difficult the issue of  compensation was by asking what price                                                               
a person would  put on having given up all  his/her 20s, 30s, and                                                               
half his/her 40s  to sit in prison.   Mr. Oberly said  that was a                                                               
sobering question,  because "there's not  enough money to  sit in                                                               
prison for  a crime  you did  not commit."   He said  the federal                                                               
government  set the  [$50,000] amount  under President  George H.                                                               
Bush.    He relayed  that  the  State  of  Texas started  out  at                                                               
$50,000, but  now had the  highest exoneration  compensation rate                                                               
of $80,000/year of wrongful conviction.                                                                                         
MR. OBERLY referenced  Chair Lynn's comment about a  man shown on                                                               
television who had  been exonerated after 30 years  on death row,                                                               
and he  offered his  understanding that  that person  was Anthony                                                               
Ray  Hinton, in  Alabama.   He  said Mr.  Hinton sought  recovery                                                               
through the judge in the case,  who awarded Mr. Hinton $1,000 for                                                               
every day  he had been  in prison.   He cautioned that  without a                                                               
statute in place,  "those are the kind of awards  that can be ...                                                               
realized out there."   He echoed the bill  sponsor's remarks that                                                               
HB  55 would  provide a  set amount  of compensation,  while also                                                               
setting  up a  known amount  that would  be satisfactory  without                                                               
being at "the high end."                                                                                                        
8:35:33 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  OBERLY  concurred with  Representative  Vazquez  that it  is                                                               
difficult to get a conviction [in  Alaska].  He said through good                                                               
police and  prosecutorial work, the vast  majority of convictions                                                               
are accurate.   Notwithstanding that, he said  Alaska's system is                                                               
not perfect;  therefore, he echoed  the bill  sponsor's statement                                                               
that  it   is  the  state's   moral  duty  to   correct  wrongful                                                               
8:36:07 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   TALERICO  asked   Mr.  Oberly   if  there   were                                                               
statistics available  showing how  many wrongful  convictions had                                                               
occurred in Alaska that had  been exonerated or whether the state                                                               
had  ever  been  involved  in   a  civil  suit  related  to  that                                                               
MR.  OBERLY answered  that  there had  been  no exonerations,  to                                                               
date, in Alaska.  He indicated  that AIP thinks it has identified                                                               
a few wrongful  convictions that have occurred in  Alaska, and it                                                               
is in  the process of  determining whether  it can prove  them in                                                               
court; therefore,  there may be  a situation coming up  where the                                                               
proposed  statute could  be utilized.   He  said Alaska's  system                                                               
generally works as it should;  therefore, wrongful convictions in                                                               
the state are rare.  He said  there may have been civil suits for                                                               
wrongful arrests,  but that  is not what  was being  addressed in                                                               
this instance.   He offered his understanding that  there had not                                                               
been any civil suits brought for wrongful conviction in Alaska.                                                                 
8:38:06 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER asked  if the  proposed legislation  would                                                               
provide   an  incentive   for  lawyers   to  look   for  wrongful                                                               
convictions, which may result in more litigation.                                                                               
MR.  OBERLY  responded  that  wrongful  convictions  are  all  he                                                               
covers,  and they  are "one  of  the most  complex and  difficult                                                               
cases to  establish."  He  said he did  not think there  were any                                                               
lawyers that were  "struggling enough to undertake  this as their                                                               
money-making  proposition."   He explained  that an  average case                                                               
takes 12 years.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER said Mr. Oberly's response was helpful.                                                                   
8:40:07 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN, after ascertaining no  one further wished to testify,                                                               
closed public testimony on HB 55.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  indicated he did not  think anything would                                                               
prevent   the  state   from  making   reparations  for   wrongful                                                               
convictions on a  case-by-case basis.  He said  he was struggling                                                               
with the  idea of creating statute  for a situation that  had not                                                               
occurred  in Alaska,  but said  he did  not think  there was  any                                                               
reason   there    could   not   be   "reparations    in   unusual                                                               
8:41:07 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KAWASAKI  responded  that he  did  not  recommend                                                               
operating on a  case-by-case basis.  He said he  thought having a                                                               
prescriptive way  to [reimburse] any wrongfully  convicted person                                                               
"is the best  way to go," and  he said he thinks  30 other states                                                               
had  agreed to  that.    Further, President  George  W. Bush,  in                                                               
signing the Act in 2004, "recognized that, too."                                                                                
8:42:00 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKINS  moved  to  report HB  55  out  of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
[zero]  fiscal  note.    There  being no  objection,  HB  55  was                                                               
reported out of the House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                     

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
15 CSHB77 v.H.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 77
16 HB 77 Supporting Document - Letter ACoA.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 77
17 HB077-DPS-PSC-4-3-15.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 77
18 HB 77 Explanation of Changes ver W to ver H.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 77
19 HB 77 Sectional Analysis ver H.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 77
01 HJR19 ver A.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HJR 19
02 HJR 19 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HJR 19
03 HJR19-LEG-SESS-04-03-15.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HJR 19
01 HB173 v H.PDF HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 173
02 HB173 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 173
03 HB173 Supporting Documents-Letter Ray Majeski 3 2 2015.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 173
04 HB173 Supporting Document - Letter AADA.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 173
05 HB173 Supporting Documents-Memo NCSL 2 13 2015.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 173
06 HB173-DOA-DMV-04-03-15.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 173
01 HB55 Draft A - Wrongful Conviction.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 55
02 HB55 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 55
03 HB55 Sectional Analysis.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 55
04 HB55 Supporting Document Alaska Statutes.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 55
05 HB55 Supporting Document Letter from William Oberly.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 55
06 HB55 Supporting Document New Jersey law.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 55
07 HB055-LAW-CRIM-04-03-15.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 55
08 HB 55 Supporting Document Bill Oberly Email.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 55
09 HB 55 Supporting Document Compensation by State (1).pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 55
10 HB 55 Supporting Document Compensation by State.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 55
11 HB 55 Supporting Document PBS Article.pdf HSTA 4/7/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 55