COMMENTARY: "Michigan ponders compensation for those wrongly convicted," by Jack Lessenberry, published by The Blade on October 14, 2016. (Jack Lessenberry, a member of the journalism faculty at Wayne State University in Detroit and The Blade’s ombudsman, writes on issues and people in Michigan.)
SUB-HEADING: "However, the state House has yet to act."
GIST: "Nobody should ever be forced to endure the lives David Gavitt and Julie Baumer were forced to endure. Nobody, that is, except maybe actors in a cable TV murder mystery series. They were both wrongly convicted of horrendous crimes. Mr. Gavitt, a former factory worker in Ionia, spent nearly 27 years in state prison after allegedly setting a fire in March, 1985, that burned his wife and two baby daughters to death. Ms. Baumer was a 27-year-old mortgage broker in Macomb County in 2003, happy and engaged to be married, when she volunteered to take care of her sister’s unwanted baby. When the baby became ill, she took him to the hospital, where doctors found a large quantity of blood in his brain. She was accused of violently shaking him and convicted of child abuse. She served four years behind bars and lost her fiancé, her career, her life, and the chance to have her own children. But both David Gavitt and Julie Baumer were innocent. Finally, after years in prison, and the efforts of people who believed in them, they both got out. How much were they compensated as a result?
Nothing. Not a penny. Had they been guilty felons who had done their time, they would have been eligible for certain re-entry programs, but they don’t even qualify for them. Finally, however, something may happen to change that. For years, State Sen. Steve Bieda (D., Warren) has fought to win some compensation for those who are totally exonerated. “It is time for Michigan to do the right thing,” he told me. “Thirty-one other states offer compensation to the wrongfully convicted. It is time for Michigan to do the right thing.” His fellow senators agreed, and in a rare show of bipartisanship, his bill passed the state Senate unanimously June 9. The state House has yet to act, and Mr. Bieda hopes they will when they return next week for a final session before the November election. If not, and if they also fail to pass it in a lame duck session after the voting, he will have to start over again......... Mr. Bieda, who is midway through his second term, said he knows he can’t give people their lives back. But his intention is to give those returning from prison a chance to re-establish their lives and perhaps gain some skills. “When the joy of freedom fades, the wrongfully convicted face the world penniless,” he said. “Their work skills are outdated, and society has moved on. “Without any type of compensation law, we are forcing them to endure more struggle and suffering when they get out.” That is especially acute in the case of someone like David Gavitt. Four years ago, thanks to diligent efforts on the part of the University of Michigan law school’s Innocence Clinic, a re-examination of the Gavitt case proved that experts totally misread evidence. Four years ago, the Ionia County prosecutor agreed that there was no evidence the fire was deliberately set and said the conviction should be overturned and Mr. Gavitt released.........Julie Baumer only served four years, but that was enough to ruin her life. Fortunately, her case attracted the attention of a Roman Catholic nun four years later, who found a new lawyer and some medical experts. They quickly discovered that the bleeding in the baby’s brain came from a rare stroke, not from child abuse."
The entire commentary can be found at:
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/
Harold Levy. Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.