Michigan AG Nessel Approves $1.3 Million in Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation to Ionia County Man

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LANSING, MI (WILX) -- An Ionia County man who spent nearly three decades in prison before new science exonerated him will receive more than $1.3 million in compensation from the state, according to a press release.

David Gavitt, 61, spent about 26 years in prison after a jury convicted him of three counts of felony murder and one count of arson. Gavitt was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1986.

The compensation was awarded Friday by Attorney General Dana Nessel after a review conducted by her office. The review was conducted under the state's Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act (WICA).

In May 2011, the University of Michigan's Innocence Clinic filed a motion for relief from judgment in Ionia County Circuit Court on behalf of Gavitt, arguing that the arson investigation science the prosecution relied on at trial had been discredited in the years after his conviction.

“No system is perfect and the government’s public recognition of the wrongs which occurred in this matter help foster a healing process and assures Michiganders that the government – regardless of fault – will take action to remedy any harm to its residents,” Nessel said. “Reentering society is profoundly difficult for the wrongfully convicted and we have an obligation to provide compensation to Mr. Gavitt for the harm he suffered.”

Under the Act, an exoneree is entitled to compensation if: 1) new evidence demonstrates that the exoneree did not perpetrate the crime and was not an accomplice or accessory; 2) the new evidence results in the reversal or vacation of the charges; and 3) the new evidence results in either the dismissal of all charges or a finding of not guilty on all charges on retrial, according to the press release.

The amount of compensation is based on $50,000 for each year the exoneree was imprisoned until release date.

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