OKLAHOMA - Thomas Webb III was convicted in 1983 for the rape of an OU student.
He spent 14 years locked up for a crime he didn’t commit, and he’s waited another two decades to be compensated by the State of Oklahoma.
Now, after being told “no” over and over again, the state has agreed to write him a check.
“My life didn’t really mean anything to anybody,” Webb said.
The criminal justice system isn’t perfect.
For Webb, it’s been far from it.
A jury convicted him on eyewitness testimony alone.
More than a decade later, he was the first person in Oklahoma cleared by DNA.
He said he came out vindicated but without much help to guide him.
“Doing 14 years from the age of 21 to 36 in that kind of environment was horrific already,” Webb said.
He says the only person who ever apologized to him was the rape victim.
Years later, the legislature passed a bill allowing compensation for people wrongfully convicted.
Webb was denied, based on a technicality.
He began to suffer from addiction.
“All I experienced was disappointment, disillusionment,” Webb said.
“There’s no legal mechanism in place for someone to be found actually innocent by clear and convincing evidence. That’s something you have to affirmatively go before a judge, present your case and get a finding,” attorney Rand Eddy said.
Eddy got involved with Webb’s case about a year-and-a-half ago.
In late 2016, Webb’s new legal team was able to get an order from a Cleveland County judge, and they filed another claim for compensation.
“I was cautiously optimistic,” Webb said.
But then Attorney General Scott Pruitt never responded, an automatic denial under the law.
Mike Hunter took office in February.
“Within a matter of days we were advised that [Hunter] believed it was in the best interest of the state of Oklahoma that Mr. Webb’s claim be granted,” Eddy said.
“It was just a surreal feeling. It still hasn't dawned on me yet,” Webb said.
Webb will get the maximum amount allowed under the law - $175,000.
He told NewsChannel 4 he isn’t angry at the people who locked him up because people can let you down.
“What I’ve found in my experience is my God has never let me down,” Webb said.
He says he appreciates the money he’ll soon receive, but more than that, it’s a symbol of what he’s been fighting for all along.
“When you see the right thing, I think it's important to do the right thing,” Webb said.
Webb says when he receives his check, he plans to repay his ex-wife who funded his exoneration efforts, pay bills and improve his credit, then buy a home.