Gov. DeSantis signs bill to compensate man wrongfully imprisoned for 43 years
Clifford Williams smiles at his exoneration: [Photo: Claire Goforth/Folio Weekly]

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The 76-year-old was arrested at 34 and not released until last year.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said a bill into law Tuesday that will compensate a 76-year-old man who was imprisoned for 43 years for a crime he did not commit.

The measure, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, overcame a provision in Florida wrongful conviction law that prevented Clifford Williams from receiving $50,000 a year for every year of his wrongful conviction to a maximum of $2 million.

“Mr. Williams has been steadfast in his belief that justice would prevail,” Gibson said. “Today, the Governor honored that long-held faith.”

At the age of 34, Williams was charged in a shooting that left one woman dead and another injured. The case against the then 34-year-old, which lacked forensic evidence, was based largely on testimony from the injured woman. Williams was found guilty and sentenced to death before the Florida Supreme court reversed the ruling to life imprisonment.

It was not until 2019 his conviction was overturned when a newly created Conviction Integrity Review Division of the fourth Judicial Circuit reviewed William’s case and found his claim of innocence credible. The division identified another man who confessed to the killing over a drug dispute with the victim.

After William’s release, the 76-year-old was barred from compensation from the state per the “clean hands” portion of Florida’s wrongful conviction law blocking wrongfully convicted individuals from receiving compensation if they had a past record, which Williams did. The legislation signed Monday would expand eligibility for those who may seek compensation for wrongful incarcerations.

According to The Fighter Law Firm, the ‘clean hands’ provision excludes convicts who committed a crime while in prison or had committed a crime and went to prison prior to their wrongful conviction.

Of the 35 states with codified wrongful conviction compensation, Florida is the only one with a “clean hands” provision.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


3 comments

  • Robert

    June 9, 2020 at 5:35 pm

    It is awful that this man was wrongfully convicted. However, the amount awarded is sheer idiocy. In much the same way as damages are calculated in a wrongful death action or in an injury action that prevents one from working, he should have received damages the calculation of which starts with his historic earnings. That is, determine what he was capable of earning based upon his earnings history to the time of his conviction, extrapolate those earnings to the present time, add an inflation factor, and add to it what he lost in Social Security contributions (that would have increased his current Social Security). Anything beyond that is winning a lottery.

    • deb

      June 9, 2020 at 8:04 pm

      For 43 years this man was wrongfully in prison and could not live as a free man. I would think the value of one’s freedom is greater than simple wages.

      • gfc

        June 10, 2020 at 12:10 am

        I agree. Who’s to say what he could have become or attained in life. DeSantis is doing the right and just thing.

Comments are closed.


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