TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

A man who was wrongfully convicted of killing seven of his children is one step closer to justice. James Richardson has been free since 1989, but his case is so old he does not qualify for money available to the wrongly convicted

Richardson spent 21 years in prison -- five of them on death row -- for killing his seven children. He came within an hour of being executed for a crime he didn't commit.

"I had nightmares and dreams and things wishing that I could just reach out and touch them again," said Richardson. "Right now it's so hard for me."

Richardson was in the state Capitol on Thursday, where he was being honored by lawmakers.

"Something very bad happened in the history of the state of Florida, and we're very happy to help him move on and have Florida turn the corner on that dark page in history," said Rep. Dave Kerner, ?D-Palm Beach.

When Richardson's innocence was proven and he was released in 1989, the state didn't give him a dime.

"Thank God I'm free. Now I don't have to worry about that problem no more," said Richardson. "It's all over."

To this day, Richardson doesn't hold a grudge.

"I have no animosity," said Richardson. "I want the people to know that I appreciate everything they do to help me continue on with my life."

The reason lawmakers have to act is because Richardson's case is so old, he isn't covered by the statute that allows the wrongly convicted to be paid.

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Kerner said the legislation is about righting a wrong.

"He said it himself. There's no amount of money in this world that's gonna fix what happened to him, but at least it's a form of recognition that we made a mistake," Kerner said.

If signed by the governor, Richardson will be eligible for $50,000 for each of the 21 years he was locked up as an innocent man.

Richardson said if he is compensated for his lost years, he will use the money to buy his first house and start a church.