A Michigan man who served 35 years in jail for a crime he did not commit has been awarded $1.8m (£1.4m), under a new state compensation scheme.

Edward Carter, 61, was in a Detroit claims court to hear he had been awarded the sum after he was wrongfully convicted of raping a pregnant woman in a bathroom stall on the campus of Wayne State University in 1974.

Carter then spent almost the next four decades of his life protesting his innocence behinds bars.

"He never lost faith," his lawyer Sima Patel told broadcaster Fox 5. "He kept at it. If anything this is a testament to his will because he kept maintaining his innocence."

The judge presiding over his claim last week said: "You either have a heart full of hatred or a heart of gratitude. I accept your representation that Mr Carter indeed has a heart of gratitude. The $1,761,506.85 - is awarded in full."

"I don't think any of us can imagine what it's been like for him," said Carter's lawyer, Patel. "It's a lifetime that was taken away."

The move is one of the first claims under the recently passed Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act, which awards up to $50,000 to former inmates for each year they were held behind bars for crimes they did not commit.

Democratic Michigan senator Steve Bieda, who has campaigned for state-wide legislation for 13 years, said he was moved by the Carter case.

"You can never compensate for that", said Bieda. "I really teared up when I heard that. That's just a horrible thing to go through."

Carter was 19 when he was convicted of robbery and sexual assault of a Wayne State University student in a trial that lasted less than a day, according to the US National Registry of Exonerations.

Carter's lawyer at the original trial failed to request analysis of fingerprints found at the scene. However, years later those fingerprints were later found to match a convicted sex offender who was in prison for similar crimes that occurred during the same period as this attack.

Remarkably, Carter was also in custody on theft charges when the assault took place.

Cater was exonerated and released in April 2010, and has since found work at Zingerman's, a delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Over the last quarter of a century, 66 people in Michigan have been exonerated of crimes they did not commit, with half of those former inmates qualifying for compensation under the new law.