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In criminal law, conviction of the innocent the greatest fear

This past year, Minnesota joined the ranks of many states in acknowledging that there are times when individuals charged with crimes are wrongfully convicted. In response to that reality, the state passed a law that now makes it possible for those who can show that their conviction was in error to receive monetary compensation for the wrong they have suffered.

Readers may be aware that the first person to submit a claim under the law is Koua Fong Lee, the 37-year-old St. Paul man who served more than two years of an eight-year prison term for criminal vehicular homicide in the 2006 deaths of several people.

Lee had argued at trial that the accelerator on his Toyota Camry had stuck, causing the deadly accident. A jury convicted him, but after evidence about general problems with Toyota accelerators started coming out in 2009 and 2010, a Ramsey County judge ordered a new trial and prosecutors decided to drop the case.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently reported that papers allowing Lee to be compensated for his time in prison have been signed. It's not clear how much he will get, but it could be at least $50,000 for each year of imprisonment.

Money is a poor substitute for freedom for the person who has suffered a wrongful conviction. Considering the severe penalties that can be meted out in the event someone charged with a violent crime is convicted, it's important to present a solid and powerful defense. We at the Rivers Law Office invite your call to discuss what steps might be taken in your particular case.

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