ALBANY, GA (WALB) - An Albany man who was wrongfully convicted of rape says he's not bitter after spending 27 years behind bars.
Jimmie Gardner was convicted in 1987 and was sentenced to 76 years in prison.
A federal judge overturned the conviction in March because of testimony from former Serologist Fred Zain who was found to lie on the stand to gain convictions.
Garnder said he's using those years in prison to educate and influence at-risk youth.
"This is an opportunity that I've dreamed about for years, for decades. And now it's here. It's happening," said Gardner.
An opportunity to share what he learned being locked up for a crime he was wrongfully convicted of.
"I feel like everything happens for a reason, and what I went through happened for a reason," said Gardner
Gardner was convicted of rape in 1987. He spent decades behind bars maintaining his innocence until Federal Judge Joseph Goodwin overturned his conviction due to questionable testimony.
"I knew that I had to get back to my family," said Gardner. "I always had a purpose, I always had a destination and reach. Get back to mama, get back to my family, get back to my loved ones. Get up, get back on track, let's go. You can do it. Stay on point. I want to do that."
His determination and drive made those years in prison purposeful. He continued continued his education while behind bars.
"Restaurant management, business management, and I got a degree in general studies," he explained.
The former Chicago Clubs player said knowledge is power. He intends to use that power to influence at-risk kids here in southwest Georgia.
"Let them know there's always another opportunity, there's another avenue. You might be in this situation today, but this doesn't define you or determine who you're going to be down the road," said Gardner.
Gardner will be back in court for a retrial in July.
He said he's prepared and has faith that he will not be convicted again.