By Bill Cotterell
TALLAHASSEE Fla. (Reuters) - A man who was released in 1989 after he was wrongly convicted of fatally poisoning his seven children will be paid $1.2 million for the 21 years he spent in prison under legislation signed into law on Friday by Governor Rick Scott.
A bill unanimously passed by the state legislature in its 2014 session will compensate James Richardson for the time he served, including four years on death row. Richardson, now 78 and living in Kansas, was sentenced in 1968 after his conviction for the deaths of his children in Arcadia, near Florida's southwest coast.
A former babysitter later admitted that she had laced the children's food with an insecticide called parathion. Richardson had been sentenced to death, but that punishment was commuted to life in prison when the U.S. Supreme Court threw out capital punishment nationwide in 1972.
He was released in 1989 but was not eligible for the state's standard wrongful-incarceration compensation law, which did not pass until 2008. In this year's session, legislators approved a narrowly tailored bill that applies only to Richardson.
Former Governor Bob Martinez ordered a review of the case after the babysitter admitted the poisoning in 1988.
Janet Reno, who was then Miami-Dade County's state attorney and later rose to U.S. Attorney General, concluded that Richardson was wrongly convicted and that the state had relied on perjury at Richardson's trial and failed to investigate evidence implicating the babysitter.
(Editing by David Adams and Susan Heavey)