Farley Grant: 'God is the turner of hearts'

Lifer still waits for O'Malley to read report on his innocence

November 22, 2010|By Dan Rodricks

The gubernatorial candidate who Mark Farley Grant should have been rooting for — because Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. would have considered his well-supported request for clemency — lost the 2010 Maryland election. So Mr. Grant's fate rests where it has rested for nearly 21/2 years: with a Democratic governor who apparently hasn't even read the credible report that exonerates Mr. Grant of a murder that occurred on a winter night in 1983.

The background:

Farley Grant — he goes by his middle name — was arrested for a murder in West Baltimore when he was 14 years old. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison when he was 15. He's been incarcerated for 27 years.

From the time he was arrested, Mr. Grant never changed his story: that he was a couple of blocks away when another teenager, Michael Gough, was stripped of his new leather jacket and shot to death. While in prison, Mr. Grant wrote letters and filed petitions asking courts to review his case or modify his sentence. All his requests were rejected.

Then, in 2004, the Innocence Project at the University of Maryland School of Law took his case. Students and law professors spent more than three years assessing facts and interviewing witnesses. Their report, sent to Gov. Martin O'Malley in July 2008, concluded that:

•The chief witness against Mr. Grant had lied at trial because relatives of the actual killer, who operated a drug gang, had threatened to shoot him and his relatives unless he named Mr. Grant as the gunman.

•A witness, who was never called to testify, confirmed that Mr. Grant was with him, in a nearby alley, when Mr. Gough was shot.

•Mr. Grant's co-defendant, originally suspected as the killer, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery, accepted a 10-year prison sentence and testified against Mr. Grant. The co-defendant failed a polygraph test prior to trial, a fact never revealed to Mr. Grant's defense.

The Innocence Project report identified the person they believe is the real killer and provided witnesses and sworn affidavits in support of the accusation.

"Mark Grant did not kill Michael Gough," the report to Mr. O'Malley concluded. "There is now no question about the fact." With that, the Innocence Project asked the governor for clemency.

And nothing happened.

Unlike Bob Ehrlich, his predecessor, Mr. O'Malley does not exercise his powers of executive clemency much, and in the case of a man sentenced to life in prison, he refuses to consider release — even when the Maryland Parole Commission recommends it. Where Mr. Ehrlich, as governor between 2003 and 2007, reviewed requests for clemency or commutations on a case-by-case basis, Mr. O'Malley embraces a prohibition on parole for parole-eligible lifers.

Innocence should be a qualification, too. But the governor appears to be unimpressed — and, in fact, there is no evidence he has even read the Innocence Project's report in this case.

The students and law professors trudge on, however, and have since uncovered further information confirming Mr. Grant's innocence.

Mr. Grant, who is incarcerated at Patuxent Institution, is still awaiting the results of a psychological examination he was required to undergo as part of his parole review. Because Maryland's governor has the power to deny parole, there is no guarantee Mr. Grant will get it, even if the parole commission recommends him.

"I am still living, thank God, and I am doing OK," Mr. Grant wrote after the Nov. 2 general election from Patuxent. "Being under these conditions for such a long time, my circumstances has its moments. Some days are better than others, but you can be assured of one thing — the pain I go through internally I deal with it in a positive light, and I wouldn't wish this on an enemy. I would never get to the point where I would lash out on people.

"Mr. Ehrlich's loss hasn't hindered my inner peace, nor my quest for freedom. Remember this, if nothing else — our creator, God, Lord of the Universe, created the sun, the moon and the Earth, and gave Earth life and everything in it. God is the turner of hearts. So why can't he turn Mr. O'Malley or any judge for that matter and allow some low educated black man an opportunity to get some fresh air?

"I will continue to stay afloat from being sunken in this world's web of deception and keep fighting the good fight.

"God bless,

"Farley."

Dan Rodricks' column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. He is the host of Midday on WYPR, 88.1 FM. His e-mail is dan.rodricks@baltsun.com.

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