Delegates reject payment for wrongly jailed man

House defeats bill to aid Calvert victim imprisoned for years

April 06, 1999|By Matthew Mosk | Matthew Mosk,SUN STAFF

The House of Delegates rejected yesterday a plan to pay $7.5 million to a Maryland man who spent 7 1/2 years in prison for a rape and killing he did not commit.

Del. Clarence Davis, an East Baltimore Democrat, introduced the measure to compensate Anthony Gray Jr., 31, a Calvert County man who was blamed for the crimes but was later cleared when it was learned that fingerprints and DNA evidence recovered at the scene did not belong to him.

Members of the House Appropriations Committee said they were sympathetic to Gray's plight, but ruled that the proper forum for him to seek restitution is the Board of Public Works, a panel that oversees state spending.

Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the Baltimore Democrat who chairs the committee, said he will ask Gov. Parris N. Glendening to issue Gray a pardon and "take action to make him whole."

Glendening serves on the Board of Public Works with the comptroller and the state treasurer.

"I urge you to consider granting him a pardon and encouraging the Board of Public Works to provide Mr. Gray with an award in recognition of his lost wages and damages to his reputation suffered as a result of his conviction and imprisonment," Rawlings wrote in a draft of a letter he said he will send to the governor.

"Maryland should be responsive to Mr. Gray's needs and take action to make him whole," Rawlings wrote.

Davis called the House's decision "a deep disappointment," and said Rawlings' letter was no consolation.

"I'm devastated," Davis said after learning of the bill's defeat. "I'm appalled that this committee could be so insensitive and so out of touch. Obviously, we have different views of what justice really is."

Gray's lawyer, Joel Katz of Annapolis, was unavailable for comment.

Davis said the reason he drafted a bill asking for legislative compensation was because the Board of Public Works is limited in what it can pay. It can only reimburse cleared inmates for such economic losses as wages they might have earned had they not been jailed.

He said he will refile the bill next year.

Legal experts have said that Gray could file a malpractice lawsuit against two attorneys who represented him in court. But such lawsuits, they said, are difficult to win.

Two people wrongfully convicted in Maryland have been compensated by the Board of Public Works.

Kirk Bloodworth of Cambridge was awarded $300,000 after serving nine years, including time on death row, for a killing he did not commit.

Leslie A. Vass of Baltimore was awarded $250,000 after prosecutors acknowledged he had served 10 years in prison for an armed robbery he did not commit.

Pub Date: 4/06/99

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