TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A 77-year-old man who spent 43 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit is seeking relief from the Florida Legislature.
After serving five of those years on death row, Clifford Williams finally heard the words he’d waited so long to hear.
“I want to apologize on behalf of the State of Florida for your wrongful incarceration,” said Rep. Bob Rommel.
A relief bill working through the Legislature would grant Williams $2 million for the time he served.
“It took 43 years for it to hit, but thank God we just kept living because a lot of people died,” said Williams.
State law allows the wrongly convicted to automatically apply for $50,000 for every year they were incarcerated, but he was previously convicted of a crime and the ‘Clean Hands Provision’ in Florida law prevents him from automatic compensation.
“The very state that wrongfully incarcerated him, which is again in itself I think an injustice,” said Rep. Bobby DuBose.
But Williams may be one of the last people to have to go through this process.
Alongside his relief bill is a proposal that would do away with the Clean Hands Provision altogether.
The legislation would give people like Williams up to two years from the time of their release to petition a court for compensation.
“I don’t think it matters, you paid your debt to society on whatever you did in the past, you spent time in jail for something you didn’t do then I think you’re entitled to compensation,” said Senate sponsor Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park.
Despite the hardship and obstacles he’s faced, Williams says he believes, “Justice has been served.”
Williams' relief bill has one more committee stop in the House and two more in the Senate.
The repeal of the Clean Hands Provision has one more committee stop in the House and the Senate version is already teed up for the chamber floor.