National Roundup

Study: State lags on compensation for wrongly imprisoned

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A recent study has found that Virginia falls behind some other states when it comes to compensating innocent people who were wrongfully sent to prison.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported last week that the study was conducted by staff of the Virginia House Appropriations Committee. It suggested that lawmakers consider setting a minimum award per year of imprisonment.

Virginia is among more than 30 states that has a law to compensate wrongfully convicted persons for their imprisonment. And since 2004, the General Assembly has made 25 awards to wrongfully convicted persons.

But the average compensation amount in Virginia has been about $46,895 per year of wrongful imprisonment. That’s lower than the average of $70,157 awarded in other states. It’s also lower than the the $50,000 a year minimum annual award in 17 states.

Advocates for the wrongfully convicted as well as some state lawmakers say that changes are needed.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch Scott

Child advocate: Foster care lawsuit necessary after inaction

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A lawsuit seeking to boost support payments for Ohio children in the custody of adult relatives was necessary because of the state’s inaction in addressing a disparity in those payments, an advocate for foster children said.

At issue in the federal lawsuit filed Nov. 19  are payments to relatives who aren’t licensed caregivers but are approved to care for children taken from their parents. The arrangement is often referred to as kinship care.

There is a substantial gap between payments to licensed foster care providers and payments to relatives, such as grandparents, aunts or uncles, who have been unexpectedly asked to care for kids to whom they’re related. Ohio has been under pressure from child advocates to follow a 2017 federal appeals court ruling ordering equality in such payments.

“It seemed like this was the direction we had to go,” said Barbara Turpin, a co-secretary of Ohio Grandparents/Kinship Coalition, which helped locate relatives involved in the lawsuit but is not a party itself.

“Hopefully this will get the caregivers who qualify for it the assistance they need,” she said.

Kimberly Hall, the director of Ohio’s human services agency, told The Associated Press in October 2019  that the agency planned to increase such payments. Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine  said in February he was close to releasing his plan on the issue. But nothing has happened since.

Hall declined to comment through a spokesperson. The governor’s office released a report on ways to improve foster care the day after the lawsuit was filed. The report acknowledged that kinship caregivers often receive “little or no financial support.”

One plaintiff in the federal complaint cares for a 1-year-old boy in Cuyahoga County and receives $302 per month in state benefits under the current system. But licensed foster care parents in Cuyahoga County receive much higher amounts — from $615 to $2,371 per month per child — and even more if children have special needs, according to the lawsuit.

In Hillsboro in southwestern Ohio, Yolanda Clark welcomed word of the lawsuit, of which she is not part. She gained custody of her son’s three children — two girls and a boy, all under age 12 — in January after their parents couldn’t care for them.

The 51-year-old grandmother quit her job as a nursing home kitchen worker to take care of the children, who join her younger 17-year-old son at home. She receives only $505 a month in support for all three children.

If she were a licensed foster care parent caring for three children, she would receive a minimum of $1,800 a month for the three.

“I struggle every day. I cry a lot,” Clark said. “I just can’t see my grandkids go anywhere else. I just feel it’s not right.”

The payment issue has come to the fore in recent years as more kids are removed from their homes amid the opioid crisis. The caregivers bringing the lawsuit said the economic pressures of the coronavirus pandemic have only made things worse.

The federal ruling that ordered equality in payments applied to Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio, the four states overseen by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee have all been making the payments, records show.

South Carolina
Officials say they can’t obtain drugs by execution date

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina prison officials say they have to delay an execution scheduled for Friday because they won’t be able to obtain the necessary lethal injection drugs.

An attorney for the state Department of Corrections wrote in a letter to the South Carolina Supreme Court last week that the agency cannot carry out the execution of Richard Bernard Moore due to the lack of drugs, which it has not had stocked since 2013. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter.

The court scheduled Moore’s execution after he exhausted his federal appeals this month. Moore, 55, has spent nearly two decades on death row following his conviction for the 1999 killing of a convenience store clerk in Spartanburg County. He would be the first person executed in South Carolina in nearly a decade.

The state’s usual injection protocol calls for three drugs: pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. But the corrections agency has said it has not had the drugs in stock since 2013, when its last supplies expired. The agency has previously said it reserves the right to execute Moore with a single lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital.

Lindsey Vann, one of Moore’s attorneys, called the delay “unprecedented” on Monday, adding that she wasn’t aware of any other execution in South Carolina history requiring such a delay due to a lack of drugs.

In 2017, corrections officials said they could not carry out the execution order of Bobby Wayne Stone without the appropriate drugs. At the time, however, Stone had not yet exhausted his appeals in court.

Prison officials say that per state law, Moore must be executed by lethal injection by default because he did not choose between lethal injection and electrocution by a deadline earlier this month. Moore’s attorneys say he did not make a decision because the agency is not being transparent with its execution protocols.

Moore’s legal team is also seeking to block the execution in federal court.

Securing lethal injection drugs has become an increasingly difficult task in the U.S. as drug manufacturers have shied away from selling to states under pressure from anti-death penalty activists.
South Carolina’s last execution was in 2011.