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Florida Awards $2 Million to Wrongfully Convicted Man

At its special session in December 2005, the Florida Legislature passed a bill to pay 44-year-old Wilton Dedge $2 million as compensation for a rape he did not commit. Dedge spent 22 years in Florida prisons for the sexual assault and stabbing of a 17-year-old Brevard County girl.

After a 10-year battle to force a DNA test, Dedge was finally released in August 2004. Since his release, Dedge has been driving a 17-year-old pick up. He had an idea of how he would spend some of his compensation. Get me a decent car, for one," he said. He also plans to invest some of the money, buy a house, and pay back his parents, who took out a second mortgage on their home and spent their life savings defending him in court.

Yet, money isn't everything. Honestly, there's nothing anybody can do to make up for 22 years. All that time is gone," said Dedge.

The Florida Legislature plans to establish a policy to compensate future victims of wrongful incarceration. I hope we can come up with a policy that will be a lasting policy," said Sen. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden. I think we've laid at least the principles down with their particular bill.

We must do more for those who are wrongfully incarcerated," said state Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami.

Certainly, the Florida Legislature will be tested on this issue. In August 2005, Luis Diaz, 67, was released after 26 years in prison after DNA excluded him as a rapist. In January 2006, Alan Crotzer, was released after 24 years when a DNA test exonerated him of his rape conviction.

Sources: Orlando Sentinel; Associated Press

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