Missouri owes wrongfully convicted man $840K in restitution, but can he collect?

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KTVI) – DNA cleared Johnny Briscoe of a crime he didn’t commit after he served 23 years in prison. Now, the courts are deciding if the justice system owes him for its mistake.

According to Missouri law, if the courts declare a person “actually innocent,” they are to be paid restitution of $100 for every day they were wrongfully imprisoned.

But on Tuesday, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office argued in court that Briscoe waited too long to ask for his money.

DNA evidence exonerated Briscoe in 2006 after he’d been convicted for a rape and robbery he did not commit. It’s unclear why he waited 15 years to ask for his restitution, but his attorney pointed out Tuesday that his delay only benefits the state.

Here’s why.

Under the law, restitution is paid out by the Missouri Department of Corrections in yearly installments of $36,000. Briscoe’s attorney, Mitchell Johnson, explained that it would take 23 years to pay Briscoe’s restitution of $840,000. Plus, state law says those payments end with someone’s death, and Briscoe would be 90 before the restitution could be paid out completely.

The Missouri AG’s Office doesn’t deny Briscoe is innocent but argued that a statute of limitations applies.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell’s office argued the opposite, saying the statute of limitations is for civil cases and not a criminal case like Briscoe’s.

“I think the statute is clear that if the legislature intended for there to be a statute of limitations to be placed on it, then they could have done that,” Bell told KTVI last week. “As a matter of fact, they did the opposite. Initially, there was a year requirement, to file within a year, but that was removed by the legislature.”

Judge Michael Burton asked for written arguments by noon Wednesday and said he might issue a ruling by July 1.

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