Corrections waives payment to exonerated man wrongly convicted of crime in Missoula

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By Mike Dennison (MTN News)February 2, 2022

Conrad’s Cody Marble (left), exonerated of a rape conviction after 14 years in the Montana prison system, speaks last year before an interim committee drafting a bill to compensate those wrongfully convicted.

HELENA — The Montana Department of Corrections has changed course and awarded an exonerated Montana man its $5,000 “Transition Assistance Grant” as he tries to become the first person to get a state compensation for wrongful conviction, under a new law.

Cody Marble, 37, of Conrad, said he received the payment late last month – seven weeks after the corrections department initially told MTN News he was ineligible for the money. However, Marble said this week he had yet to receive or get a response to a rental voucher he was required by law to obtain while his case was pending.

The Department of Corrections did not respond to multiple inquiries from MTN News regarding the status of Marble’s rental voucher.

Marble, convicted of rape in Missoula in 2002, was exonerated in 2017 after spending more than a decade behind bars. He denied the crime ever took place, saying he was framed by fellow inmates at the county’s juvenile detention center.

Last spring, the Montana Legislature passed House Bill 92, which created a process under which those wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit can obtain compensation from the State.

Marble became the first person to file a lawsuit under HB92 in late September in Missoula State District Court. Marble could be eligible for up to $800,000 — in addition to two years of Montana state college tuition assistance and one year of health insurance coverage.

The new law also states that plaintiffs are supposed to receive $5,000 from the state Department of Corrections as a “transition assistance grant,” when they intend to file a claim and within 30 days following their release from prison. Yet two months after Marble filed the claim, he had not received the money.

In response to an investigation by MTN News, state corrections officials last December said Marble was ineligible for the grant because it was only for people released from prison after the government went into effect. of the new law. Marble had been released from prison in 2016.

But about three weeks later, corrections officials backtracked, saying Marble would get the $5,000 if he provided “specific documentation” – which he did.

Marble had to sign a waiver of any further claims against the state and complete a 1099 tax form, so the payment could be reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

The law also states that the state “provides a housing voucher” to any applicant, as long as an application is pending. Marble said neither he nor his landlord had received a response regarding the rental voucher.

In order to be eligible for a claim, Marble had to drop a lawsuit in federal court against the State and County of Missoula, seeking damages for his wrongful conviction. He must also prove his innocence in the case, through legal proceedings in the district court.

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