Family turns to General Assembly to pay for wrongful conviction

Published: Jan. 23, 2013 at 7:28 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 2, 2013 at 10:43 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - After nearly three decades of fighting a rape conviction, DNA evidence cleared Charles City native Bennett Barbour of all wrongdoing. Now his family grieves his recent death, and is at a loss of how to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees used to clear his name.

"My mom borrowed money against our home to raise money for lawyers," said Rose Hewlett, Barbour's sister. "We had all kinds of fairs, and raffles to help to get lawyers because we believed in him. We knew he was innocent."

A bill now sponsored by Sen. Don McEachin (D-Richmond) in the General Assembly would compensate the Barbour family more than $160,000. Barbour died Jan. 10 of bone cancer, after fighting for decades to free his life of the disease, and the shame of a wrongful conviction.

His four sisters said in an interview Wednesday the money is not sought for retribution, but to repay their mother for her financial sacrifice.

"With Bennett gone, it's about Mom. We need to help her," said Hewlett in an interview Wednesday. "She still has bills she's paying on her home. She's 86 years old. Let her know what she did was not in vain."

The measure to compensate the family is proposed in Senate Bill 1132. The Finance Committee heard a brief presentation on the bill Wednesday morning, and will vote to advance the proposal Friday.

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