Columbus man granted $400K after wrongful conviction
By Sara Belsole
COLUMBUS, GA – It came down to the wire for the second year in a row..
But, Thursday night, House Resolution 73 finally passed, promising Columbus native Lathan Word $400,000 for the almost 12 years of his life he spent in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
“I was thankful to God. I was thankful that it was over, it's been a long long journey,” Word says.
Word was convicted of armed robbery in 1999, when he was just 17 years old. His conviction was overturned in 2011, after the man who testified against him admitted to authorities he had lied.
Local Representative Carolyn Hugley sponsored the bill.
“It was simply the right thing to do. This was not partisan, it was about fairness and justice for someone who was treated wrongly by the State Justice System,” Hugley says.
But she says the clock almost struck midnight on the bill when the Senate added a last minute amendment.
The amendment states that if Word is convicted of a felony, the payments will stop. But that's not something Word says he is worried about.
“That's at the bottom of my list of things to do, I am going to the top of my list, so I am not worried about things that are at the bottom,” Word says.
Hugley says the amendment was another road-block and isn't sure the bill had the full support of local Senator Josh McKoon.
“On Friday we asked him if he was going to help us with it, and he had said he hadn't made up his mind at that juncture,” Hugley says.
McKoon says his actions speak for themselves, “I argued in favor of it to the entire Senate and we passed it in the Senate.”
But even if Governor Nathan Deal signs the bill, it could be months before Word receives a dime. Because the bill did not make it to the senate floor before last Friday, it was not worked into next year's budget.
Instead, it will be put into the mid-year budget in early 20-14. But that doesn't throw Word's plans off track.
“My plans were there without any fiances, your finances don't make the plans, a man makes his plans,” Word says.
Word says he wants to publish his story and implement it into the school system for 12th graders.