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Mississippi Supreme Court: Compensation fund also covers time served on house arrest

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JACKSON, Mississippi — The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled the state's program that provides compensation to inmates wrongfully convicted of crimes covers not only time behind bars but also house arrest.

The 5-4 ruling Thursday reversed a decision entered by the Supreme Court in March that denied extra compensation to Frank Sanders Tipton for the two years he served under house arrest. The justices ruled then that Tipton was due $41,097 for the 300 days he was locked up.

The new ruling means Tipton would eligible for an additional $100,000. The attorney general's office had opposed the extra compensation.

"Imprisonment may occur in an actual prison, but it also can include a state of confinement, which can occur anywhere and vary widely in degree," Justice Jim Kitchens wrote Thursday for the court's majority. "Throughout our state history, if a person was confined within boundaries fixed by another party, that person has been considered to have been imprisoned."

Justice Josiah Dennis Coleman, in a dissent joined by three other justices, said state law does not provide compensation for any lesser form of confinement. Coleman said while house arrest is form of confinement, it not compensable under the law.

"Mississippi legislation and case law have made it clear that there are different levels of confinement, and compensation was meant for offenders, as the plain language of the statute states, who were incarcerated or, alternatively, imprisoned. With respect to the majority, I cannot read the statute to provide compensation for any lesser form of confinement," Coleman said.

Tipton was convicted in 2007 in Jackson County on extortion charges related to his offer to pay a woman's fines and court costs if she modeled nude for him. He was sentenced to one year in prison and two years' house arrest.

In 2010, the Mississippi Supreme Court threw out Tipton's conviction. The court's majority said prosecutors had to prove under the law that Tipton was an "employee of any contractor providing incarceration services," which Tipton was not. Tipton worked for a company that had contracted with the city of Gulfport to monitor misdemeanor offenders.

Tipton applied for and was found qualified for money from the state's wrongly convicted compensation fund. The attorney general's office oversees the fund. The fund pays out $50,000 a year to a maximum of $500,000.

Tipton sued in Jackson County Circuit Court when the state refused to pay him both the 300 days he was behind bars and the two years he was under house arrest.

A Jackson County judge ruled for the state in 2013.

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