In September of 2022, Adnan Syed was released from prison after serving 23 years for a crime he did not commit. Syed, now 41, was only 18, when he was charged and convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. His story, as told in the popular podcast "Serial," captivated the nation. However, his release is just one small victory in a long battle for justice. On average, it takes exonerees over 11 years to be exonerated, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. That's over a decade of their life spent wrongfully imprisoned. And even when they are finally freed, the fight is not over. In many states, exonerees have to go through another hearing to prove their innocence and receive compensation.
That's why California's Senate Bill 618 is so important. SB 618 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in October 2013. The bill mandates that when a judge grants a writ of habeas corpus, those findings are binding on the compensation board; second, prisoners who are exonerated and freed no longer have to go through another hearing to prove their innocence.
SB 618 has had a positive impact on wrongfully convicted prisoners in California by making it easier for them to receive financial compensation from the state. Prior to the passage of this bill, exonerees had to go through a lengthy and difficult process in order to receive compensation. Thanks to SB 618, they are able to receive payments automatically if their innocence has already been established. This streamlined process has helped many exonerees get the resources they need to rebuild their lives after wrongful conviction.
When prosecutors dropped murder charges against Adnan Syed, he had already spent 23 years in prison. That's more than two decades of his life that he'll never get back. It's time for states to do better by exonerees. They've already lost so much; they shouldn't have to fight for every penny just to try and rebuild their lives.