SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – It’s been three days since a St. Louis Judge tossed out the murder conviction of Lamar Johnson, making him a free man.

“Finally the state legislature in 2021 change the law that allowed Kevin Strickland and will hopefully allow others to secure their freedom by the elected prosecutors in different jurisdictions in Missouri,” St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said. “

But, Johnson does not qualify for restitution. That’s because the current law only allows compensation if the conviction was overturned through DNA testing.

“I can’t imagine being an individual being wrongfully incarcerated for so many years,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said. “We’re talking decades for these folks where they did not do anything wrong and they are serving time in prison, missing out on their family and their life experiences. That in itself is such an atrocity that needs to be addressed.”

Quade is sponsoring a bill that would allow for any wrongfully convicted person to get compensation, regardless of DNA testing.

“As technology advances and we go beyond the specific just DNA testing, there’s a lot of other avenues that we can prove our conviction,” Quade said. “That’s why I believe we need to expand it.”

House Bill 374 would pay those wrongfully convicted up to $36,500 a year. For Johnson, his attorneys have set up a fund to help get him on his feet since he does not qualify for restitution.

“Putting a monetary value to that is nearly impossible, but I think as lawmakers, we should be looking at how can we actually support these folks so that they can live the remainder of their lives and get some sort of justice back,” Quade said.

Compensation is also something Gardner believes Johnson should receive.

“I believe there’s many efforts in the state legislature to look into this, and I’ve heard calls that there needs to be changes from Republicans and Democrats in the legislature,” Gardner said. “They pushed for the mechanisms to give me the ability to correct the wrongful conviction. Now, as do we have the will to totally compensate individuals like Lamar Johnson, who have actual innocence which is very different.”

HB 374 also would establish re-entry services for wrongfully convicted people.

“It’s something that I feel citizens are indebted to if they are wrongfully convicted,” Quade said.

Representative LaKeySha Bosley who serves part of St. Louis City is also pushing for restitution. If passed, the bill would create a state fund legal expense fund for wrongful conviction cases.