Exonerated But Still Confined: Slayer Rules Present Extra Obstacles to Criminally Exonerated Individuals



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Estate Planning and Community Property Law Journal


This comment will address the hypothetical legal consequences exonerees face after release from prison but having lost their inheritances through civil suits. Often, the exonerees must sue the same families they want to re-connect with after prison. Many state compensation statutes for exonerees contain gaps and shortcomings and vary vastly from state to state. The first section of this comment will address the goals of the Innocence Project and the relief it provides for the wrongfully convicted. This section will specifically address exonerations for murder and what generally happens to property after incarceration. Next, an analysis of slayer statutes and requisite case law will demonstrate how each state addresses people who murder for inheritance. The wording of the statutes reflects a particular policy standpoint either in favor or against forfeiture of property. Each state approaches the treatment of slayers differently, including outright forfeiture, staying the proceeding, or prohibition of forfeiture altogether. Some states provide for a constructive trust remedy rather than a slayer statute. Next, this comment will address the overlap of criminal exonerations and slayer statutes and the inevitable gaps that form when someone falls into both categories. Finally, five solutions provide alternative options for exoneree-beneficiaries.



Exoneree, Slayer statutes, Property rights, Estate proceeds, Compensating exonerees, Forfeiture of estate, Constructive trust, Uniform Probate Code, Murder of testator


10 Est. Plan. & Cmty. Prop. L. J. 351