COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A Columbus man is receiving $1.3 million from the state after serving more than 20 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.

Ralph Blaine Smith was just 24 years old when he was wrongfully imprisoned, and despite losing out on over two decades, said he’s grateful to be back with his loved ones again.

“I’m happy to be here now,” Smith said. “I’m not mad at anybody or angry or anything. I just want to live life.”

Smith was arrested in February 2000, accused of breaking into a Lancaster home and stealing thousands of dollars out of a family’s safe. While in prison, Smith and his family worked with defense attorney Joseph Landusky to prove his innocence.

Landusky was troubled by the evidence, he said — or rather, the lack thereof.

“I thought, ‘Well wait a minute, maybe this didn’t even happen,'” said Landusky.

Landusky said the pieces connecting Smith to the burglary didn’t add up. He presented his findings to a Fairfield County judge that showed Smith not only wasn’t involved, but the crime may have never occurred.

The judge agreed, and in July 2021, Smith was released from prison.

It’s led to Smith now being awarded a $1.3 million settlement from the state of Ohio, which he plans to use to support those who helped him during his incarceration.

Even though he lost more than 20 years, Smith said he holds no anger over his time in prison.

“He’s a lot smarter than most people that way,” Landusky said. “He believes that anger is just going to eat away at him.”

Smith said he doesn’t look back on the years lost — he looks forward to the time ahead of him.

“I just want to live life. I’m happy that I’m able to be free at the age that I am now,” said Smith.

Smith’s attorneys have filed a $20 million federal lawsuit against the city of Pickerington, Fairfield County, and the former officers and prosecuting attorneys involved in his case from 21 years ago.