INDIANAPOLIS — A Gary man who served 17 years in prison for a 1989 Hammond rape that DNA evidence later showed he did not commit may be among those eligible for a proposed state program to compensate wrongfully convicted Hoosiers.
Roosevelt Glenn, 57, told the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law on Tuesday that exonerated prisoners deserve payment to make up for the years of their lives taken from them without justification.
The former Region steelworker said when he got out of prison, "I didn't have anything. I didn't have one penny."
"I lost my whole career. I lost my pension. I lost my 401(k). I lost my retirement," he said. "I was forced to register as a sex offender. I was forced to take therapeutic classes for rapists, child molesters and incest.
"After all of that, it was found that I was the wrong person."
Under House Bill 1150, individuals found innocent of crimes for which they served prison time would be eligible for a payment of $50,000 for each year they needlessly spent incarcerated at the Indiana Department of Correction.
However, to receive the payment, an exonerated inmate would be required to drop any lawsuit against the state, a state agency or a local government, as well as any government official or employee individually responsible for the improper conviction.
Glenn currently is suing several officers and related personnel from the Hammond police and the state police for allegedly fabricating forensic evidence analysis of semen and hair that purportedly tied Glenn to the rape, and for allegedly withholding exculpatory evidence indicating that other individuals were responsible for the crime.
He said even though that pending lawsuit currently would make him ineligible for payment if the restitution proposal is enacted, he still believes: "This bill is very important."
"I wouldn't want to drop my lawsuit anyway because of all the wrong that happened, and what's been found to have happened through the Police Department in the city of Hammond," Glenn said.
"Not only didn't I commit the crime, I was in the city of Gary when the crime happened in Hammond."
State Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, the committee chairman, said Glenn's wrongful conviction experience is among his greatest fears.
"I dread every day that somebody would ever convict me of a crime and I'd have to go back there and lose my freedom," Young said. "I don't know how you did it for 17 years.
"I'm an attorney, and when I go into jail to talk to some of my clients I don't like the idea of walking in the jail, even being in there to talk to the clients, because it just bothers me that much. So we're going to do everything we can to help you out."
The committee next week is expected to consider amendments to the House-approved legislation that could allow individuals like Glenn to pursue a lawsuit, and, if unsuccessful, still receive compensation from the state exoneration fund.
State records show at least 34 individuals, who spent a total of 369 years locked up for crimes they didn't commit, may be eligible for up to $18.4 million in payments if the measure becomes law.
It's not clear how soon they'd get paid since the state budget proposal in House Bill 1001 only appropriates $400,000 over the next two years to the exoneration account.
The exoneration legislation also makes wrongfully imprisoned individuals eligible for post-prison programs and services typically provided to inmates upon completing their sentences.