updated 5/17/2007 7:27:43 AM ET 2007-05-17T11:27:43

The Connecticut legislature voted unanimously Wednesday to give $5 million to a man imprisoned for more than 18 years for a rape he didn’t commit, then gave him a standing ovation.

Moved by James C. Tillman’s humbleness and lack of bitterness, lawmakers said they hoped the money will let him live the rest of his life in relative comfort.

The bill passed 148-0 in the House and 33-0 in the Senate. It now heads to Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who said she would be honored to sign it.

“I think we all wonder, could we be so kind and gentle and humble as we find this person,” said Rep. Kenneth Green, D-Hartford. “He did not deserve to be incarcerated for 18½ years. Five million dollars is the least that we can do.”

Standing ovation
Both chambers gave Tillman a standing ovation after the vote. After the House vote, his mother, Katherine Martin Tillman, wiped away tears as she and her son, who walks with a slight limp and wears a cross around his neck, were led to the House Speaker’s dais.

Tillman, who was 26 when he was arrested, was sentenced to 45 years in prison after being convicted of raping and beating a woman in Hartford in 1988. The victim identified him, but Tillman was exonerated last summer after DNA tests showed he could not have been the attacker.

Tillman’s lawyer, Gerard A. Smyth, said his client believes the $5 million is fair compensation.

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