Wrongfully convicted Florida man blocked from collecting $2.5M

Clifford Williams (center) was 34-years-old when he was convicted in the shooting death of a Jacksonville woman in 1976. (Photo: First Coast News / video screenshot)

A Florida man wrongfully convicted of murder is on yet another quest for  justice.

It was less than a year ago that Clifford Williams and his nephew, Nathan Meyers, were cleared in the 1976 murder of a Jacksonville woman and the attempted murder of her roommate. The two men would spend 43 years in prison before the state attorney’s office confirmed their innocence.

“I just wanted to get out and be with my … kids,” Williams, who also spent  five years on death row, told reporters after his release last March. “There wasn’t nobody but them.”

Under Florida Law, those who’ve been wrongfully convicted and can prove it are eligible to receive up to $50,000 for every year they were imprisoned. It excludes people like Williams, however, who have prior convictions.

The 77-year-old headed to Tallahassee this week to fight for compensation local lawmakers say is owed to him by the state — $2.5 million to be exact. According to First Coast News, House and Senate Democrats, along with William’s lawyers and The Innocence Project of Florida are now working to authorize a “claims” bill that would compensate the elderly man for his time served.

Williams was present at the House Civil Justice Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday where his bill received unanimous approval from the panel – and an apology from committee Chair Bob Rommel (R-Naples).

“I want to apologize on behalf of the state of Florida,” Rommel told him. “We can never give back your time.”

The chairman promised to “work hard” to get the measure passed and said he hoped the compensation would provide some comfort to the wrongfully imprisoned man.

A separate measure would also remove the so-called “clean hands” rule that restricts “automatic” compensation for wrongfully incarcerated people with prior felony convictions, Creative Loafing reported.

“How many dollars can replace the pain, the grief, and the torment that he endured, being an innocent man behind bars?” said Jacksonville Rep. Kimberly Daniels, who sponsored Williams’ proposal. “How much can you give a man for taking away 43 years of his life?”

While many saw the bill’s approval as a huge step in the right direction, lawmakers said there’s still a long road ahead. Claim bills can take several years before they’re passed.

Still, Williams said he remains hopeful.

“I just trusted God for those 43 years,” he said. “We can’t rush him.”

-The Grio