Innocent man, sentenced to jail in 2000, released

By Laura Ann Sills - bioemail

COLUMBUS, GA (WXTX) - Lathan Word's family cannot stop smiling.  In 2000, Word was sentenced to 15 years with no chance of parole for an armed robbery. Three weeks ago, the main witness against him said he would not lie anymore and a judge acquitted the 29-year-old.

Lathan's grandmother, Retha Lee Word, remembered that day, "It was joyful. I could not cry. I was filled with joy. I could not cry."

Word maintained his innocence the entire time he was in prison, always telling his grandmother he did not do it. "I worried about him. He told me he did not do it. I said yes, I believe you. I know you did not do it," recounted Lathan's grandmother.

Word's dad and grandfather died while he was in prison and he did not get to say a proper goodbye, but he tells News Leader 9 that he visits their graves every day since his release.

After 12 years in the prison system for something he did not do, Lathan could be very bitter, but he stood in front of Columbus council Tuesday to say he is not bitter, "I understand what a mistake is. Everybody makes mistakes. Some people's mistakes are more severe than others. That mistake just cost me a lot," explained Word.

Currently, Word is looking for a job and trying to get back in to college. In addition, several council members and the mayor said they would like to help Word get back in to school through a part of the crime prevention program.

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