Wrongfully convicted, Catholic clergy probe funded in 2019 supplemental budget

    Attorney General Dana Nessel | Susan J. Demas

    The Michigan Senate approved a fiscal year 2019 supplemental budget Tuesday, including $10 million to replenish a fund that compensates the wrongfully convicted and more than $600,000 for the attorney general’s clergy abuse investigation.

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer | Casey Hull

    The bill now goes to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has indicated she will sign the supplemental, Senate Bill 150.

    The state’s Wrongful Imprisonment Conviction Fund was almost depleted, even as Attorney General Dana Nessel recently awarded $2 million to a group of wrongfully convicted Michiganders in mid-May. Of that, $1.5 million of that award will go to Richard Phillips, a man whose 1972 murder conviction was overturned by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s Conviction Integrity Unit.

    Earlier this year, the fund was the subject of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first line-item veto, which she said was because appropriations should be made in budget bills.

    Nessel awards $2M+ to wrongfully convicted Michiganders

    Adding funding for Nessel’s Catholic clergy sexual abuse investigation comes after some public clashes with the GOP-led Legislature.

    Nessel announced last week that more charges are forthcoming in the investigation, even after a blockbuster announcement in May of more than 20 charges of criminal misconduct against just five Michigan priests.

    Updated: Nessel announces sexual assault charges against 5 Catholic priests

    In a statement, Nessel said, “The passage of today’s supplemental budget helps to fund two very important initiatives at the Department of Attorney General and I am grateful to the Legislature for their support.”

    A version of the fiscal year 2020 budget passed by the Republican-controlled Senate last month featured an almost 9% cut to Nessel’s office. Such a budget is unlikely to be signed by Whitmer, a fellow Democrat.

    The deadline for next year’s budget is Sept. 30, and negotiations between Whitmer and Republican leaders are expected to ramp up this summer.

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson is a former associate editor of the Advance. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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