Rick Scott signs bill compensating unfairly incarcerated man

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On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 227, allowing 78-year-old James Joseph Richardson to receive payment for 21 years he was wrongfully imprisoned after accusations he poisoned his seven children.

Then-Gov. Bob Martinez released Richardson after ordering a special investigation, and he is now eligible to receive $1.2 million under the new law, one of 50 bills Scott signed on Friday.

In 1967, Richardson’s seven children died in Arcadia from pesticide put in their lunch. Long before the widespread use of DNA testing, Richardson was convicted in 1968 of one of the deaths, and was sentenced to be executed. After Martinez had appointed a special prosecutor, Richardson was released in 1989 and his sentence was vacated.

The new law applies to cases with several conditions: a governor appoints a special prosecutor to review a claimant’s conviction; the special prosecutor chooses not to pursue charges, and the original conviction and death sentence occurred before Jan. 1, 1980.

James Joseph Richardson’s compensation was denied due to current law, where an administrative law judge ruled he did not meet the legal requirements to prove his “actual innocence,” despite a lack of evidence against him.

The new law takes effect July 1.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.