Governor Signs Arthur Carmona-inspired Wrongful Convictions Bill

When he died at the hands of a hit-and run driver early last year, Arthur Carmona was still hard at work trying to help people like him who had been convicted of crimes they didn't commit, and whose problems didn't end when, miracle of miracles, the justice system finally corrected itself and declared them innocent. Now, nearly two years after Carmona's tragic death and almost a decade after he walked out of prison a free man, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger has finally signed a bill that will make it much easier for wrongfully convicted individuals to get justice.

Arnie had already vetoed previous versions of the bill, but last night he signed into law AB316, which was written by Jose Solorio, (D-Santa Ana), and which passed the legislature with a unanimous vote and only one abstention, OC's very own Mike Duvall (R-Drippy), who apparently had bigger problems to deal with at the time.

Among other things, the legislation will make it easier for inmates who were sent to prison thanks in part
to legal incompetence to sue their attorneys. Under existing law,
inmates have to file a claim against their attorney within a year of
having discovered–or, and here's the key loophole–from when they
should have discovered–the wrongdoing, or within four years from the
date the wrongdoing occurred. Now, inmates would have two years from
the date their charges are overturned to file such a claim.

Until now,
inmates also had only six months from exoneration to file a claim with
the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims board to
receive $100 per day they were wrongfully held behind bars. Now, they
have two years to try to get that cash.

Over the weekend, Ronnie Sandoval, Carmona's mother and a paralegal who
struggled tirelessly to see her son vindicated–you can read all about
his Kafkaesque journey through OC's justice system here, here and here–had
sent out a massive flurry of emails asking everyone she knew to fax
Schwarzenegger, asking him to sign the bill. She learned the good news
this morning.

“I wasn't hopeful he'd sign it, so I was shocked,” Sandoval said. “It's a step in the right
direction. He's acknowledging that there are wrongful prosecutions and
his signing the bill shows that there's somebody hearing us.” Sandoval
added that she hopes to realize Carmona's dream of forming a non-profit
group that will provide legal aid, social rehabilitation and job
hunting assistance to other wrongfully convicted individuals, and that
the passage of the bill has provided her with renewed  vigor. “For the
governor, signing this bill was just a stroke of the pen,” she said.
“But for me it's a reason to keep going.”

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