“This is absolutely shameful,” says the attorney for a man exonerated of a rape charge. The state owes him $500,000 and is obligated to pay a wrongfully convicted murderer $2 million.
The state of Michigan owes Nathaniel Hatchett $500,000, but the two-page court document ordering compensation for his wrongful rape conviction won’t feed him or pay his rent. Hatchett was arrested for sexual assault at 17 and spent 10 years in prison before DNA evidence exonerated him. Prosecutors dropped the charges in 2008. Hatchett is eligible for $50,000 for each year he spent in prison, and a judge ordered the state to pay Hatchett the full $500,000 by Jan. 16, the Detroit News reports. state officials say there’s not enough money in the fund to pay exonerated ex-prisoners. Hatchett, who is unemployed, and others who were wrongfully convicted, are still waiting for their money.
“The state screwed these guys over by wrongfully convicting them, and now they’re screwing them again by withholding money that’s lawfully theirs,” said Hatchett’s attorney, Wolfgang Mueller. “This is absolutely shameful.” A spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says, “The current balance in the fund is so low that a single case or two could deplete it. We cannot and should not lead people to believe they will be compensated for their wrongful incarceration if we are unwilling to appropriate the necessary funds.” The exoneration fund contains about $1.6 million — or $400,000 less than the $2 million it owes just one wrongfully convicted murderer, Richard Phillips. Phillips spent 46 years in prison before his case was overturned, making him the longest-serving wrongfully convicted inmate in U.S. history, according to the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan.