They were wrongfully convicted. Now they’re denied compensation despite Michigan law

They were wrongfully convicted. Now they’re denied compensation despite Michigan law

by Anna Clark

ProPublica

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After his murder conviction was overturned in 2020, Marvin Cotton Jr. checked into a Comfort Inn outside Detroit, ready to begin a new life after nearly two decades in prison.

Freedom, however, was frightening. Night after night, he awoke every 15 minutes or so, wrestling with the covers, wondering if he’d hallucinated it all. He kept the television on to remind himself he wasn’t in prison anymore. Its noise broke the first complete silence he’d experienced in half a lifetime, he said, which “scared the hell out of me.”

More than a month living at the hotel ate up his modest savings, Cotton said. His conviction still showed up in background searches, he said, so when he found a landlord willing to rent to him, he had to pay extra. Finding a job seemed impossible. To keep up with expenses, he took out high-interest loans.

But there was hope: Michigan offers $50,000 for each year a person is wrongfully imprisoned, thanks to the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act, which took effect in 2017. For Cotton, it seemed to promise nearly a million dollars.

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