Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Justice once denied, ex-convict back for $713,700

In this October 2012 file photo, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies inspect a cell block at the Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. Timothy Atkins was released from an L.A. jail after 23 years behind bars.
In this October 2012 file photo, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies inspect a cell block at the Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. Timothy Atkins was released from an L.A. jail after 23 years behind bars. AP

Exonerated after 20 years in prison, Timothy Atkins is in the capital today asking for compensation – again. A legal quirk means there’s no guarantee he will get it.

Atkins was found guilty for a shooting and robbery when he was 17, but the chief prosecution witness later said she was a drug user who lied to skirt a narcotics charge.

After his release in 2007, Atkins asked the state’s Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board to recommend compensation to the Legislature. They denied him in a 2010 oral decision, saying he hadn’t met the burden of proof despite his release.

He has since been declared “factually innocent” by an L.A. judge, which means that under current state law, he’d be guaranteed a recommendation for payment per day for the time he was in prison. He’s seeking $713,700. But the board is hearing his case under the law that existed when his case first came up. Board spokeswoman Anne Gordon said the recommendation could go either way.

Advocates for exonorees say that innocent people who leave prison are at a disadvantage if they don’t get state money quickly. Unlike parolees, they say, those whose convictions are overturned mostly don’t get access to a support system that helps them reenter society.

Atkins told the LA Times it’s not about the money, though – he just wants justice.

JUSTICE OF A DIFFERENT SORT: The SEIU is leading a rally for Senate Bill 588, which toughens up policy on employers who don’t pay workers on time. The bill could even shut down businesses that leave claims unanswered.

The rally’s styled after the now-international “Justice for Janitors” movement, which commemorates a 1990 protest in L.A. where service workers were beaten by police.

TRAILER PARK: The Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee considers a swath of budget bills over from the Assembly. You can read a list of the bills up for consideration on their agenda.

NATIVE REMAINS: The implementation process for Assembly Bill 52, which provides for tribal input into construction projects on land important to Native Americans, continues at a hearing today. The Native American Heritage Commission will discuss possible changes to the way remains found on construction sites are handled.

The state has a longstanding “most likely descendent” policy which requires mediation between the landowner and possible relatives of the exhumed person. That policy might be up for minor reinterpretation after a series of commission hearings.

CELBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, who turns 64 today. A belated happy birthday to Rep. Scott Peters, D-La Jolla, who turned 57 yesterday, and Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, who is now 58.

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