In 1991, Leroy McGee went to prison for an armed robbery. A year after his release in 1994, his name was cleared in court, confirming what he had been telling people all along -- he was innocent.
McGee is now making headlines 15 years after his name was cleared for being the first man eligible to receive compensation under the Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act. The law, passed by the Legislature in 2008, allows for the falsely accused to receive up to $50,000 for every year spent behind bars.
McGee has agreed to accept $179,000 from the state for the three and a half years he spent behind bars.
So what is McGee most thankful for now that he's a free a man, working for the school system as a school district employee, and receiving compensation? Family.
The Juice: What's something that you find yourself doing that you took for granted before?
Spending more time with my daughter, Lesharria. I spend a lot of time with her. I want to get the chance to take her to Georgia somewhere. When I'm able, I will
take her and do some things I wasn't able to when I was in. I'm also spending more time going to the Kingdom Hall getting my spirituality straight with God. I'm a Jehovah's Witness, so I'm doing more spiritual things now.
What changes did you experience as a person?
It's hard to trust anybody now. Just like in there, you can't trust anybody; it's hard to trust anybody out here. So it's hard to really get close to anybody. Like right now, I'm still a single man, single person, because my wife left me and it's hard to trust another woman.
Now that you're out, what about society amazes you the most?
There so much of the same type of people, and it definitely amazes me out here. It's about the same as it is on the inside. When I was in there, no one wanted to listen to you. I was trying to tell them I was innocent, and no one wanted to hear that. Out here, it's about the same. No matter what kind of person you are, they still have the same opinion of you.
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Are you still angry with the person that accused you of armed robbery?
No. I was at first, but now I try to be more spiritually minded because he's got to pay for what he did. He's got to pay for the mistake he made. We all got to pay for our own sins, and he has to pay for that one. I got vindicated.
What feels different now?
Well, I feel different. I'm able to do things that I want to do. Like if I want to turn the TV on, I turn the TV on. If I want to stay up, I can do that. If I want to go Kingdom Hall, I can. Anything I want to do on my own now, I can do it without asking anyone. There's nothing like your freedom.