Hogan Wants Resolution by End of the Month on Payments to Exonerees

The state of Maryland will make compensation offers to five men who spent decades in prison for crimes they did not commit, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced Wednesday.

The five spent a total of 120 years in prison, and the issue of how to compensate them has proven vexing for Hogan and his Board of Public Works colleagues, Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D).

Last month, with pressure to offer financial settlements building, Hogan ordered BPW attorneys to craft a memorandum of understanding with the state’s chief administrative law judge to determine how much money each man should receive.

That move drew criticism from lawmakers and others who believed the board should use its existing power to resolve the cases. On Wednesday, Hogan said, “Unfortunately this is a very complex legal matter and the lawyers are saying it can’t be done in the expedited time frame that the three of us would be satisfied with.”

Instead, Hogan has ordered staff to take make recommendations for the board to consider at its next meeting.

“We have directed the Board of Public Works advisers and legal team to immediately prepare compensation agreements for all five petitioners and to have them presented to us for action no later than the next board meeting in two weeks, on Oct. 30,” Hogan said, “so that we may resolve this matter and compensate these wrongly convicted individuals.”

Lamar Johnson, Jerome Johnson, Walter Lomax, Clarence Shipley Jr. and Hubert James Williams are seeking roughly $100,000 a year for each year they were incarcerated, The Washington Post reported.

Kopp praised Hogan for pressing for a resolution, acknowledging that no amount of money will restore the time lost due to the bogus convictions.

“It’s many years too late, and I don’t think any of us could ever imagine that we could actually compensate somebody for spending years — decades — in prison when they were innocent of crime,” she said.

Hogan added, “The five individuals who were wrongfully convicted experienced unimaginable pain and indignities when incarcerated for crimes they did not commit.”

Franchot expressed hope that “today’s action by this board [will] serve as a catalyst to a process of healing and closure for these five individuals, and serve as a reminder to all of us in elective office of our responsibility to ensure that every individual is treated fairly by our laws.”

Del. Shelly Hettleman (D-Baltimore County) praised the board’s action. She said she is hopeful the legislature crafts policy in next year’s session for dealing with future cases as they arise.

“I think it’s a really positive development,” she said. “I would hope that they can come to conclusions and pay them sooner rather than later.”

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