Hopes for 2006: Gregory Bright
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
In June, we brought you a profile of Gregory Bright who spent 27 years locked up in Louisiana for a murder he didn't commit. He was exonerated in 2003 and walked out of prison with a $10 check from the state.
Mr. GREGORY BRIGHT: That day that I actually stepped out, you know, bulbs and stuff flashing, cameras and stuff flashing, and this guy--the first words he asked me, he said, `How does it feel to finally be a free man?,' you know? And I thought that was the most cruelest question that I could be asked. You know? I just stepped out of prison after serving 27 1/2 years. You know what I mean? It wasn't like a demon or something had been exorcised from me.
ELLIOTT: Producer Eve Trough spent time with 50-year-old Gregory Bright as he struggled to piece together his life, unemployed, but free, in McComb, Mississippi. She went back to check on him this week.
Mr. BRIGHT: You know, I did a series of jobs like roofing and stuff like that. I buffed floors and stuff like that, and I see where being in prison really affected me now. Really, I don't have the stamina or the drive to compete with people twice younger, you know?
ELLIOTT: The week our story first aired, Louisiana passed a law to compensate the wrongfully convicted with up to $150,000 if they apply and can wait until the state Legislature actually funds the new law, but Greg Bright didn't apply for compensation.
Mr. BRIGHT: The legislators should have authorized that once a person is exonerated, the process should begun right then. He shouldn't have to ask or file for this or ask for that, especially for the people that spent an extensive part of their life incarcerated. Then you know coming from prison to the Free World is like going to another planet or something. You'd have to learn everything all over again.
ELLIOTT: Greg Bright says he doesn't bother getting upset about money. He's devoted to his girlfriend's son, Corey(ph), who has cerebral palsy. In June, Bright spoke of his great hope to give Corey an electric wheelchair. An NPR listener raised the funds to buy that wheelchair and had it delivered to their home.
Mr. BRIGHT: There's no amount of money or no fame or no power or nothing can come close to that. You know, the human heart, I think--it's just overwhelming to me. It just--sometimes it just takes my breath away, you know? You know, I like to be a position to do stuff like that.
ELLIOTT: Greg Bright says he wants to be someone who can change people's outlook. He has a lot to say and plans to write about his experience in the new year.
Mr. BRIGHT: I think it's going to be revealed to me on what direction I need to go in. So I'm looking forward to the new year.
ELLIOTT: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.