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Government & Politics Justice

State awards $3.1 million to man wrongfully convicted of murder

Gov. Wes Moore (D), chairs the three-member Board of Public Works that includes Treasurer Dereck Davis (foreground) and Comptroller Brooke Lierman (D). File photo by Bryan P. Sears.

A 63-year old man will receive nearly $3.1 million from the state after he spent more than three decades in prison for a murder he did not commit.

The Board of Public Works unanimously approved the payment for Gary Washington during a meeting Wednesday. Gov. Wes Moore (D) apologized to Washington and his wife before the vote.

“And so Gary, as governor of this state, and more importantly as a father, as a husband and as a son and as a fellow Marylander there are no words that can convey how sorry I am to you today,” said Moore. “How sorry we are to the both of you for what you had to endure. And then on behalf of the entire state I’m sorry for the failure of the justice system.”

The payment includes nearly $3 million in compensation for the 31 years Washington spent in prison based on a state rate of $94,991 annually. He will also receive nearly $90,000 in housing benefit payments.

Both awards are part of compensation through the Walter Lomax Act. Washington is the 14th person to receive compensation under the law passed in 2021.

Washington, then 25, was accused of fatally shooting Fareem Ali, 17, during a drug dispute in East Baltimore.

No physical evidence was found at the scene other than the bullet that killed Ali. A gun was never recovered.

Washington identified the shooter by name to his lawyer at the time. A pair of witnesses called by the defense said the shooter was the same man identified by Washington.

Washington’s 1987 conviction in Baltimore City hinged on the testimony of a 12-year old boy.

He was sentenced to life in prison plus an additional 20 years to run concurrently.

“During his incarceration, Mr. Washington never gave up hope, despite appeals and judicial petitions, getting denied time after time,” Moore said.

In 2018, a judge vacated Washington’s conviction. The witness recanted his testimony, saying police manipulated him into identifying Washington as the shooter.

The judge ordered a new trial but in 2019, the Office of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney dropped the charges.

“He was finally released — 11,459 days or 31 years were stolen from Mr. Washington,” said Moore. “He missed his entire son’s childhood and all the milestones that parents cherish. He missed spending time with his partner as a husband, to his wife, a recent retiree, who he met when they were 15 years old.”

State settles EEOC complaint

The Board of Public Works also unanimously voted Wednesday to approve a settlement between Brandy Allen and her former employer, the University of Maryland Global Campus.

The $75,000 settlement resolves a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission filed by Allen against the University of Maryland Global Campus.

The federal commission handles complaints of discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Details of the complaint are not public.

State Treasurer Dereck Davis (D) called the need for a settlement ‘ridiculous.”

“I know we can’t get into the details of it so I won’t,” Davis said, adding that he had looked at the additional remedies beyond the monetary settlement.

“Even the remedy for the additional training, no one needs this training. If you just read it, this is pretty basic,” said Davis. “We know at this point what we can and cannot do. You don’t need to be trained on something as basic as that. And at some point we just have to do what’s right. We can’t become retaliatory or punitive because it has to be a level of professionalism, that we just don’t do things and then the state is on the hook.”

Davis said there needs to be more accountability within agencies for actions that leave the state at risk for lawsuits.

“There are times where training is appropriate. We need it. This isn’t a training situation,” said Davis. “This is someone who’s got punitive and they got caught. And so here we are.”


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State awards $3.1 million to man wrongfully convicted of murder