DETROIT (AP) — A man sent to prison for a drug crime has cleared a hurdle in a bid to get state compensation for a wrongful conviction in a case with unusual circumstances.

Evidence that would have helped David Maples wasn't available to him when he decided to plead guilty, the Michigan Supreme Court said Tuesday in a 5-2 opinion.

The decision sets another precedent for a relatively new law that pays people $50,000 a year for each year spent in prison on a wrongful conviction.

Maples insisted he had no role in a cocaine deal with an undercover police officer in a bar in 1993. But he ended up pleading guilty in Macomb County court when a co-defendant wouldn't testify in Maples' favor under the terms of his own plea bargain.

Maples' conviction, however, was ultimately reversed by a federal appeals court based on a claim of ineffective counsel.

Years later, he filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from the state based on a 2017 law known as WICA. The law says someone with a conviction overturned because of “new evidence” is eligible for payment.

Maples said a co-defendant, James Murphy, would have cleared him if he had been allowed to testify in Circuit Court. He noted that Murphy had testified during an earlier stage in the case.

“So long as the evidence was not presented at a proceeding where guilt was decided — that is, a trial or a hearing where a plea was entered — the WICA considers it ‘new,’” Chief Justice Bridget McCormack said.

The case will return to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Maples spent roughly eight years in prison, attorney Mark Bendure said.


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