Congratulations to Dewey Bozella for his well deserved $7.5 million settlement agreement with Dutchess County (home of sunny Poughkeepsie). Bozella was convicted of the beating and suffocation of a 92-year-old woman on her way home from bingo (seriously). The Supreme Court of New York overturned his conviction in 2009, after finding that two witnesses had lied to get favorable treatment for their own crimes and that the prosecution had withheld evidence. Bozella spent 26 years in prison.
Justice, in my opinion, would involve making those prosecutors pay Mr. Bozella a hefty amount of money, rather than county taxpayers who – let’s face it – will be the ones footing this bill. But perhaps if other exonerees are successful, the public will start putting pressure on their district attorneys to follow the rules and convict people only if they’re guilty. Of course, the way public opinion goes prisoners and former prisoners are basically the only demographic with less credibility than the government, so New York will probably just go the way of states like Louisiana who cap what wrongfully incarcerated people can be awarded (in Louisiana, that cap is set at $150,000).
In this case, though, I’m thrilled that New York doesn’t have a cap. I’ve met Dewey and his wife Trena, and they are two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. (They met through Trena’s brother, who was incarcerated with Dewey, and married while Dewey was in prison.) So, personally and politically, a hearty congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Bozella, and to his attorney who took the case pro bono (which means that Dewey will receive the entire award).