Wrongfully Convicted Florida Man Denied $2.5M Compensation after Spending 43 Years in Prison

"I trusted God for those 43 years. We can't rush him," says a wrongfully convicted man who's fighting to reverse the decision that denied him his compensation for the decades he served behind bars. 

A wrongfully convicted man from Florida is seeking justice once again after he was denied compensation for his over four decades of prison time.

Clifford Williams, Jr. received good news last year when a court ruling absolved him of a crime he didn’t commit. Along with his nephew, Nathan Meyers, he had spent 43 years in prison for the wrongful conviction.

A screenshot of photos of wrongly convicted Clifford Williams and his nephew Nathan Myers. | Source: Youtube/News4JAX

A screenshot of photos of wrongly convicted Clifford Williams and his nephew Nathan Myers. | Source: Youtube/News4JAX

DENIED WHAT HE'S DUE

As per the state law, persons who are wrongly convicted are entitled to a compensation of $50,000 for every year served. The total sum, $2.5 million was what Williams would have taken home. But that’s not the case. The law limits the compensation to those who have no prior convictions and Williams does not make that criterion.

“How many dollars can replace the pain, the grief, and the torment that he endured, being an innocent man behind bars? How much can you give a man for taking away 43 years of his life?”

A screenshot from a video of Clifford Williams Jr. who is fighting to receive his compensation for his wrongful conviction. | Photo: First Coast News

A screenshot from a video of Clifford Williams Jr. who is fighting to receive his compensation for his wrongful conviction. | Photo: First Coast News

HOPE IN THE HORIZON

On Wednesday last week, Williams pleaded his case in Tallahassee. Backed by local lawmakers, he hopes to be compensated with a new “claims” bill that the House and Senate Democrats and The Innocence Project of Florida are hoping to authorize.

The bill removes the “clean hands” rule that prohibits wrongfully convicted persons who have prior convictions from getting compensation. If approved, it guarantees that Williams will get his $2.5 million.

During the hearing with the Civil Justice Committee on Wednesday, the claims bill received unanimous approval. Committee Chair Bob Rommel also issued an apology to Williams on behalf of the state of Florida. “We can never give back your time,” he said and promised to “work hard” for the bill to be passed.

Jackson Representative Kimberly Daniels, a sponsor of Williams’ proposal raised questions to plead his case.

“How many dollars can replace the pain, the grief, and the torment that he endured, being an innocent man behind bars? How much can you give a man for taking away 43 years of his life?”

Meanwhile, Williams is hopeful that God is on his side. “I just trusted God for those 43 years. We can’t rush him,” he said.

Though the bill received a positive response in its initial filing, it’s still a long way from being authorized. Some claims bills take years before they are passed.

THE STORY OF WILLIAMS' CONVICTION

Williams was released in March 2019 after serving time for a 1976 murder of a woman from Jacksonville, Jeanette Williams and the attempted murder of her roommate, Nina Marshall.  He had spent five years in death row before his sentence was commuted to life in prison. Meyers was also sentenced to life in prison after refusing to testify against his uncle. He would have received a lighter sentence if he did.

Williams and Meyers’ conviction was based on the testimony of Marshall who pretended to be dead after she and the female Williams were shot.  She named Williams, Jr.  who had no relation to Williams as the shooter and said a $100 debt was the motive. 

 In spite of testing negative for gunshot residue, Williams, Jr. and Myers, who identified the deceased Williams outside the crime scene were charged and convicted.

However, in 1994, a man named Nathaniel Lawson confessed before his death that he was responsible for the crime. This and the loopholes in Marshall’s testimony cleared Williams, Jr. and Myers of the crime.

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