COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio will give $1.1 million to a man who spent nearly 18 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit, lawyers in the case said.
Robert McClendon, 54, who was released in August 2008 after he was cleared by DNA testing, said he's grateful for the settlement but it doesn't make up for the time spent in prison.
"This is tragic. I had a third of my life stolen from me," he said.
McClendon was convicted in 1991 of abducting and raping a female relative. A private lab agreed to conduct DNA tests after he and other inmates were profiled by The Columbus Dispatch in a series that exposed flaws in the state's DNA testing system.
The settlement still needs to be approved by the Ohio Court of Claims. State law provides for about $45,000 in compensation for each year an exonerated inmate was in prison.
McClendon's attorneys also argued that his lost wages should be calculated and potentially adjusted for inflation.
"Obviously, all the money in the world couldn't make up for him losing that many years of his life," said McClendon's attorney, Michele Berry of Cincinnati. "But we are happy with the settlement, and we are hopeful the court will approve it."
McClendon, who has been living in a small, one-bedroom apartment in Columbus with his son, said he plans to buy a $300,000 house, furnishings and a new car with his new money and invest the rest. He's heard stories about other exonerated inmates who have squandered their settlement money, and he doesn't want that to happen to him, he said.
McClendon earns a living as a public speaker and continues to crusade on behalf of others who have been wrongly convicted.
Not counting McClendon's pending settlement, Ohio has paid about $12.4 million in damages to 37 wrongly convicted inmates since 1984, according to records.