Wrongly jailed man threatens to sue Md.

He wants pardon and compensation, his lawyer says

April 07, 1999|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN STAFF

The attorney for a man wrongly imprisoned for more than seven years warned yesterday that he will sue the state unless Gov. Parris N. Glendening grants a pardon and the state agrees to pay the man hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The warning was issued a day after a House of Delegates committee killed a bill that would have paid Anthony Gray Jr. $7.5 million.

The 31-year-old Calvert County man was jailed for 7 1/2 years in the killing of a Chesapeake Beach woman. He had been sentenced to life in prison but was released last month.

"If the state is not going to go through with its obligation to compensate Mr. Gray for the wrong that was done to him, we'll have to go with some legal action," said his attorney, Joel Katz of Annapolis. "We'll ask the governor for a pardon, and we'll consider what is offered for compensations, but if it's $200,000 or $300,000 for more than seven years in jail, that isn't adequate."

Michelle Byrnie, a spokeswoman for the governor, said yesterday said that he has not received a formal request from Gray's attorney for a pardon but, when he does, he will give his full consideration.

The pardon is necessary for the state Board of Public Works to compensate Gray under a seldom-used provision in Maryland law. Only twice in recent years has the board agreed to pay prisoners who were mistakely imprisoned.

The board agreed to pay Kirk Bloodworth of Cambridge $300,000 after he served nine years, including time on death row, for a killing he did not commit. It awarded Leslie A. Vass of Baltimore $250,000 for serving 10 years for an armed robbery he did not commit.

On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee defeated a bill submitted by Del. Clarence Davis, a Baltimore Democrat, to compensate Gray without making him go through the Public Works Board.

Davis took his bill yesterday to the floor of the House of Delegates, but that effort also failed. In an impassioned speech, Davis asked members to suspend procedures to help him get justice for the Calvert County man.

"What I'm asking is that the state of Maryland make a statement that all people are entitled to protection under the Bill of Rights," Davis said. "This body will have the chance to say that it will not tolerate the actions of the police and the state's attorney in this case. It's wake-up time, and you need to send that message."

Other legislators viewed Davis' effort as misguided, saying it undermined the General Assembly's system that relies on committees to weed out inadequate bills.

Davis' effort to take the matter to a floor vote failed by a 37-94 vote.

In March, Katz and the state's attorney for Calvert County, Robert Riddle, told a judge that authorities had insufficient evidence to keep Gray jailed. Katz argued that Gray -- who dropped out of special education classes in high school -- was tricked into confessing. Investigators had told him they had a mound of evidence against him and that unless he confessed he could face the death penalty.

Gray confessed without an attorney representing him. (Riddle took office after Gray confessed.) Two men arrested with Gray were acquitted at trial, one by a judge who refused to let the case go to a jury because the evidence was so weak. Another man has confessed to killing the woman.

Sun staff writer Matthew Mosk contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 4/07/99

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