Politics & Government

State to give wrongly convicted man $500,000

ATLANTA — The General Assembly authorized $500,000 to a Meriwether County man wrongly convicted of rape in 1979.

John Jerome White spent 20 years in state prison after the conviction. DNA testing later proved he was innocent. He was convicted on the strength of being picked out of a photo lineup.

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, D-Columbus, sponsored the resolution.

The resolution passed the Senate 29-21. It needed 29 votes for a majority. Both Columbus senators — Republican Seth Harp and Democrat Ed Harbison — voted for it and spoke in favor of it.

Harp was one of about a half dozen Republican senators who voted for it.

“I absolutely believe they owe him because they took 20 years of his life,” Harp said.

Some Senate Republicans fought the measure, pointing out that White was convicted of other crimes, including armed robbery and possession of cocaine. It was also argued the state should not make this payment in light of the more than $3 billion budget shortfall.

“I am surprised about the rancor over a man robbed of his freedom,” Harbison said.

The Senate put several provisions on the resolution. White, 48, will have to stay felony free, submit to drug testing and hold a job or do volunteer work. He will not receive the money in a lump sum, instead he will get it in annual payments.

The House voted 118-42 to accept the Senate changes.

Hugley recommended the House take it.

“At this late juncture, it is the best we can do,” she said. “...It is not a perfect situation for Mr. White.”

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