Imagine being sent to death row for poisoning your seven children knowing you were innocent. That’s what happened to James Richardson in the small town of Arcadia (90 miles southwest of Tampa), in 1968. Now, after nearly 40 years, Richardson is fighting to be compensated for his wrongful conviction
Fruit picker James Richardson went to death row in 1968 for allegedly poisoning his seven children. In the late 1980s high profile attorney Ellis Rubin started questioning the conviction.
“This case will illustrate what racism was in Florida in 1967,” said Rubin in a December 1998 interview.
A thorough investigation by the Governor and Special Prosecutor followed.
“Justice ought to prevail,” said Former Governor Bob Martinez in February 1989.
A neighbor confessed, the lawyer got the state Supreme Court to hear an appeal.
“We have alleged 17 instances of perjury with the knowledge of the state,” said Rubin.
Freed, pending a new trial, the state declined to retry Richardson.
“It’s marvelous,” said James Richardson in a 1989 interview. “I can be able to go where ever I want to go.”
Now James Richardson faces another obstacle, current law won’t allow him to be compensated for his lost years because there’s no DNA, but for that matter even a case file.”
“Because our wrongful-incarceration statute requires DNA…” said Sen. Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando).
Senator Thompson has legislation that threads a tricky legal needle. The bill would allow Richardson to apply for compensation.
“And the special Prosecutor issues a no-cross memorandum, which she did,” said Sen. Thompson. “And if the conviction was prior to 1980 that he should qualify to apply to be compensated.”
If approved, Richardson could apply for a payment of $50,000 for each of the 21 years he spent as an innocent man behind bars.
Richardson, now 79 is living in Wichita, Kansas.
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