A key committee of the Georgia House of Representatives approved $1.2 million in compensation Monday for a man who spent 21 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. Willie “Pete” Williams was exonerated last year after DNA tests proved that another man committed the 1985 rape of which Williams was convicted.
The House Appropriations Committee approved a resolution from Rep. Steve Tumlin (R-Marietta) that would give Williams a $100,000 lump sum payment and the balance of the $1.2 million in yearly payments over 20 years.
Tumlin said the payments were meant to compensate Williams for the wages and other potential benefits he lost while serving time in prison.
Williams was 23 when he was convicted on eyewitness testimony from the victim of a Sandy Springs rape. Another man is now being prosecuted for the crime. "Losing your 20s, 30s and early 40s," Tumlin said. "Think about that if it were you."
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(Atlanta Journal Constitution, 03/03/08)
The resolution must still be passed by the Georgia House and Senate. Georgia is one of 28 states that do not have a law compensating the exonerated for years they lost in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. The Innocence Project has proposed that these states pass uniform bills rather than requiring each exoneree to go before the legislature for a “private bill” like this one.