***I blogged about this case several months ago (and helped to draft an amicus brief, submitted jointly by the Institute for Justice and the Cato Institute, in support of the petitioners’ ultimately victorious claim that Colorado’s procedures are unconstitutional), and you can find more details and background about the case there.
- The petitioners have an “obvious interest” in the return of their money,*** to which the state has no entitlement;
- the “risk of erroneous deprivation” is high under Colorado’s procedures, both because defendants may not be able to sustain the burden of proving their innocence and because “the cost of mounting a claim under the Exoneration Act and retaining a lawyer to pursue it” will often be “prohibitive”; and
- There is no governmental interest furthered by Colorado’s procedures, because Colorado has “no interest in withholding from Nelson and Madden money to which the State currently has zero claim of right.”
[*** Justice Clarence Thomas, the lone dissenter, disagreed with this point: In his view, though he agrees that “if petitioners had never been convicted, Colorado could not have required them to pay the money at issue," once the state has taken it, it belongs to the state, and therefore the petitioners are not being deprived of “property" within the meaning of the due process clause. Presumably, therefore, Colorado doesn’t have to provide them with any refund procedures — surely an odd result.]
“[O]nce those convictions were erased, the presumption of their innocence was restored. See, e.g., Johnson v. Mississippi, 486 U. S. 578, 585 (1988) (After a “conviction has been reversed, unless and until [the defendant] should be retried, he must be presumed innocent of that charge.”)“[A]xiomatic and elementary,” the presumption of innocence “lies at the foundation of our criminal law.” Coffin v. United States, 156 U. S. 432, 453 (1895). Colorado may not retain funds taken from Nelson and Madden solely because of their now-invalidated convictions, for Colorado may not presume a person, adjudged guilty of no crime, nonetheless guilty enough for monetary exactions. [Emphasis added]