A state judge has ruled a Metairie man, who spent 17 years in prison for an attempted rape he did not commit, is entitled to up to $330,000 in compensation. 40-year-old Nathan Brown was released from prison in June after DNA tests proved his innocence.
Innocence Project New Orleans attorney Kristin Wenstrom says Brown is not immediately eligible for the entire sum.
"The way the statute is written is $25,000 per year of wrongful incarceration, but it is capped at $250,000. So he isn't getting compensated for every year he was in prison."
Brown is entitled to petition the court for an additional $80,000 for loss of life opportunities. Wenstrom says that additional money can be for medical expenses, education, and job training.
"We need to either spend it or get a plan for the expenses. Then we petition the court for it and ask for the compensation and get a new judgment. And then you to the Commission on Law Enforcement and you ask for a check and you wait for months."
Wenstrom says this money doesn't make up for 17 years of wrongful incarceration, but it will help Brown restart his life.
"He left prison with, literally, the clothes on his back and that's it. So, imagine being a grown man walking out and you're starting with nothing. You have nothing. You have no foundation, whatsoever."
According a recent Public Policy Poll, support for marijuana reform continues to grow in Louisiana. The survey done last week of a sampling of registered voters here found that 78% oppose sentences of longer than 6 months for pot possession -- up from 59% last year.
"It's really time to recognize that the voters of Louisiana are not interested in locking people up for possessing marijuana," says Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Marjorie Esman.
According to the results, 71% oppose life sentences for marijuana possession up from 65% last year. Esman says 2/3 of those surveyed also acknowledged they knew someone who has ever been in possession of marijuana.
"And I suspect the numbers are actually higher and that because there are people who don't want to admit it and also people who don't know that they know someone," said Esman.
The survey also shows that 68% of people support letting certain seriously ill patients use medical marijuana with a doctor's prescription -- up 3% from last year.
Esman believes the numbers are rising because people are starting to realize that Louisiana is so out of sync with the rest of the country on this issue.
"Also because there was a medical marijuana bill this last legislative session, it didn't pass, but people are talking about it now," said Esman.