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Posted: 8/29/2004 6:33:40 PM EDT
Two men wrongly convicted of SF murder must prove innocence

Sunday August 29, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Two men who were wrongly convicted for a gang murder here must prove their innocence again this week to receive compensation for the nearly 14 years they spent behind bars.

``J.J.'' Tennison, of San Mateo County, and Antoine ``Soda Pop'' Goff, or San Francisco, were released from prison after a San Francisco judge ruled last year that they were factually innocent in a notorious gang murder in 1989, when Tennison was 17 and Goff was 21.

But the state attorney general's office has opposed their request for $100 for each day they were unjustly imprisoned. The office still maintains the men are guilty even though federal and state judges reversed their convictions, and then-Attorney General Terence Hallinan signed a court agreement declaring their innocence.

``The evidence demonstrates that Goff and Tennison committed the murder for which they were convicted,'' Deputy Attorney General Michael Farrell told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Under a law that requires them to prove their innocence, Tennison and Goff's claims with the state's Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board will be heard Monday in Sacramento.

The compensation board's rules require claimants to prove by a majority of the evidence that they didn't commit the crime and didn't intentionally or negligently contribute to their own arrest and conviction.

``It's outrageous,'' said Daniel Purcell, one of Tennison's pro bono lawyers.

State compensation for people exonerated after imprisonment has been a growing issue in the wake of recent challenges to convictions using DNA and other evidence.

Since 1981, 47 people have filed claims with the board under a state law that allows payments of up to $100 for each day an innocent person was incarcerated, said Fran Clader, a board spokeswoman. Ten of those claims resulted in payments.

If they are innocent they should be compensated, greatly. If did the murders, but got off on a technicality they should not be compensated.

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