People who are freed from prison when their convictions are reversed deserve a refund of what they paid in fees, court costs and restitution, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
"They are entitled to be presumed innocent" once their convictions are thrown out, said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the state "has zero claim" to their money.
The 7-1 decision orders the state of Colorado to refund several thousand dollars to two defendants, a woman and a man, who were convicted of sex crimes but had their convictions reversed. Shannon Nelson, who was charged with abusing her children, was acquitted in a retrial, and the prostitution-related charges against Louis Madden were dropped.
In both instances, the state insisted on keeping the restitution they had paid.
UCLA law professor Stuart Banner and the UCLA Supreme Court Clinic appealed the case of Nelson v. Colorado to the high court last year, noting that Colorado was the only state that regularly refused to refund money taken from criminal defendants who were later exonerated.