Tim Atkins continues his wait for justice

Atkins has waited 10 years for the state to compensate his 23 years in prison

Bakersfield, Calif. - The same judge who handed him a 32-years-to-life sentence freed him after finding police pressured a witness into giving the false testimony that convicted him.

For 10 years since his release, he has waited for the state to compensate him for his years in prison. Today, he learned whether his wait is over.

California law provides compensation to people like Tim Atkins - wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.

His 23 years locked up translates to about $800,000.

Atkins was found factually innocent, but the state's compensation board has refused to approve his application.

Atkins was just 17-years-old when he was arrested in January 1985 for a new years day murder and robbery in Venice Beach.

He was 40 when he was finally freed.

Wendy Koen - at the time a second year law student interning with the California Innocence Project - tracked down the prosecution's chief witness, Denise Powell-- a homeless, drug-addicted acquaintance of Atkins.

Powell said investigators pressured her to name a suspect, or stay in jail until she did.

The Innocence Project was able to get Powell to testify to the coercion in front of the same judge who presided at Atkins' trial.

On the strength of her recanted testimony, Atkins was freed.

State law requires the Victims Compensation Board to pay people wrongfully convicted $140 for each day they spent behind bars. 

"After 10, 15, 20 years of prison, it's not going to make them whole, it's not going to give them their years back or their life back, but let's at least ease their transition back into society," Alex Simpson of the California Innocence Project said.

However, the board has rejected Atkins claim, because one member of the board, San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos, refuses to accept his innocence.

"I think it's more likely that he did commit the crime of murder," Ramos said. 

The Innocence Project was granted a writ compelling the board to accept the court's finding of factual innocence, and approve Atkins petition for compensation.

The board had until the close of business Monday to appeal that writ.

As of six o'clock, we were unable to find any filing on the appellate court website, and Tim Atkins tells us he received no notice of appeal.

Alex Simpson of says the next step is to request the board to put Atkins' petition on its agenda, and once it's approved, to get a state legislator to introduce a bill authorizing payment to Tim. 

So even though he's likely gotten over this hurdle, Tim Atkins still has a while to wait before he gets what the law demands.


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