|Koua Fong Lee with his wife, Panghoua Moua, right, and attorney Bob Hilliard .|
Source: Associated Press
Minnesota lawmakers are expected to sign off on nearly $1.8 million in total payouts to three men who were wrongfully convicted of crimes and later cleared.
A legislative committee on Tuesday unanimously approved payments to Michael Hansen, Roger Lee Olsen and Koua Fong Lee. The men's claims will now head to the full House and Senate for final approval.
Minnesota Public Radio News reports that the three are the first to take advantage of a compensation bill passed two years ago.
Hansen spent more than six years behind bars in the death of his 3-month-old daughter, Avryonna, until his conviction was overturned in 2011 due to new evidence showing the child didn't die of blunt force trauma. He's seeking $917,000 for his wrongful conviction.
Olsen was freed from prison in 2008 after his stepdaughter who accused him of sexual assault recanted her testimony. He's seeking $475,000.
Lee was cleared in 2010 of vehicular homicide in a fatal rear-end crash after news came out that Toyota vehicles similar to his sometimes accelerated unintentionally. He's seeking $395,000.
State Rep. John Lesch, a former prosecutor, sponsored the compensation legislation in the Minnesota House. He believes it's important that the state compensates people who are wrongfully convicted of serious crimes when the justice system doesn't deliver.
"It absolutely is important that this is provided as a stopgap for a judicial system that in all other ways is very good," Lesch said.
He expects the three men's claims to pass the House and Senate with very little opposition.