Colorado considers a wrongly convicted compensation bill
"I'm still in jail, unless this compensation bill passes, I don't know what I'm going to do," said Robert Dewey.
He’s the first person in Colorado to ever be completely exonerated of all charges through DNA evidence.
Now Robert Dewey has the only case in the state that could qualify him for compensation.
Most states already offer that, but Colorado isn't one of them.
"When they cut me loose I walked out of there with whatever the county jail gave me to wear... no money, no phone, technology- I'm 18 years behind, Wal-Mart’s freak me out," explained Dewey.
Dewey was sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for the rape and murder of a Palisade woman named Jacie Taylor, after blood was found on Dewey's shirt.
DNA testing convinced investigators it was a combination of his and Taylor's, but other experts said it could of come from thousands of others.
"I figured I'd be leaving any time, someone's just playing me…I just thought someone made a mistake, this doesn't happen, it's not going to happen to me! You're in a room full of people and no one can hear you, it's exactly what it feels like. it's like you're behind glass, nobody sees you, and you yell hey hey hey! And they just walk right by."
17 years later… some hope; a grant for the State Attorney General's office to fund testing on closed cases.
Then on April 23rd of 2011 Dewey was declared innocent.
"They just kind of gave me a hand shake, said sorry, sorry about you're like, have a nice day kind of thing…it's like, ya I'll let you know how that works out," said Dewey.
In Colorado guilty parolees and inmates who serve their time leave with a safety net: a parole supervisor and community corrections programs. But none of that was there for Dewey, who wasn't guilty.
Mesa County District Attorney, Pete Hautzinger said, "That's something that Mr. dewey kind of, i don't want to say got short end of the stick, but normally someone who has been convicted, goes to prison, spends X number of years in prison, will have a process of being reintroduced to society."
"I thought wow, we've taken away 18 years of a mans life, and he's been in basically four walls and a small cell, and it's up to us as legislators to make an injustice, justice," said Denver representative Angela Williams says half the country already has wrongly convicted compensation laws, why not Colorado?
"The biggest part of the bill is defining actual innocence and we couldn't move forward on this bill until we determined what that was," explained Williams.
But the bill must also protect the state from unfair lawsuits.
"Under the current bill somebody who gets convicted at trial, the judge makes a mistake, in the meantime some witnesses disappear or die, or forget things, and they wind up being found not guilty at the second trial- that's not someone who I think should get this kind of compensation, it ought to be limited to someone's like Mr.Dewey who's innocence has been proven," explained Hautzinger.
Officials have been discussing the compensation bill in Denver for weeks now, if passed, the only person directly affect by it in Colorado, is Robert Dewey."
But until state legislators act, Dewey is on his own. Now 51 years old, with nearly 20 years lost behind bars.
And since Dewey was serving a life sentence without parole, educational resources such as computer classes and job training weren't available.
"It's like I'm starting over type thing, and it's frustrating…to come out and try to get caught up with any kind of technology at all, I had nothing, I'm still in a shoe-box they just lifted a lid and dumped me off. I'm not saying it's anyone's fault or anything like that, it is what it is, it happens, lets deal with it and move on…but the taxpayers and voters have put people in office to do certain jobs and it's time for them to step up, do their job and do what's right. Right now I'm the only one, whose to say there won't be more," said Dewey.
Representative Williams is optimistic for change... but perhaps no one is more hopeful than Dewey himself.
"If it doesn't pass- it'll be like walking out the door of the joint again- with nothing," said Dewey.
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