Lawmakers propose bill to provide compensation for wrongfully imprisoned individuals

The day Lee Clark walked out of prison as a free man is etched in his memory forever.

Clark expressed that the feeling he experienced in that moment was the most incredible feeling he would ever encounter in his life.

Clark endured a quarter of a century in prison for a crime he was innocent of.

Clark and Josh Storey were just 17 years old when tragedy struck. Their dear friend, Brian Bowling, who was only 15 at the time, accidentally lost his life while playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette inside his home in Rome back in 1996.

The Georgia Innocence Project, who had represented Clark, recently came across new evidence through a podcast, more than twenty years later.

Clark, now in his mid-40s, has had to begin his life anew after his release.

“It feels as if I’m 18 again, just graduating from high school. That’s the kind of excitement I have right now. But the truth is, I’m not 18, I’m not in high school anymore. I’m actually 45 years old, and I feel like I have nothing in this world,” Clark expressed.

Currently, Clark is employed in a position that pays just a few dollars above the minimum wage. Due to his wrongful imprisonment, he lacks the necessary experience to secure a higher-paying job.

State Representative Kate Dempsey (R-Rome) emphasized the importance of rectifying errors and addressing egregious mistakes in these cases. She believes that it is our responsibility to do so, as we owe it to the individuals affected by these errors.

Rep. Dempsey is making efforts to rectify the situation.

She is sponsoring two bills for two exonerated men, seeking to provide them with compensation for the duration they spent wrongfully imprisoned.

Exonerated individuals like Clark in Georgia require legislative approval for their payments.

Clark’s bill proposes that he be compensated $1.8 million by the state, amounting to $72,000 for each year he was unjustly imprisoned.

According to Clark, there is not a single person on Earth who would willingly go through the same hardships and sacrifices he has endured in order to attain the financial success he is currently pursuing.

“I believe it is crucial to help them regain their footing,” stated Representative Dempsey.

The House passed the bill with broad bipartisan support, but it has yet to be heard in the Senate.

Rep. Dempsey acknowledges that with the legislative session coming to a close next week, passing the bill will require some out-of-the-box thinking.

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MBS Staff
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