On Wednesday, under pressure from 50 Democratic lawmakers and attorneys representing the exonerated men, Hogan said he has instructed the Board of Public Works general counsel to work with the state’s chief administrative law judge to “immediately” devise a process for awarding money to the ex-prisoners. They are seeking about $12 million.
Here are brief profiles of the men:
Hubert James Williams: 11 years behind bars
Hubert James Williams was sitting on the edge of the bed at VA Medical Center in Northwest Washington, waiting to learn if he would be sent to a rehab facility in West Virginia.
“Could you let us know where you are?” asked Andrew George, his attorney, who until that summer day hadn’t seen his longtime client in several months.
“Oh, yeah,” Williams said.
Williams, 67, is a recovering addict who has struggled with mental illness and had bouts of homelessness since being exonerated. He grew up in Baltimore County and was sexually abused by an older male neighbor, a trauma that his attorneys believe contributed to his substance abuse.
He started smoking cigarettes at 7 and sniffing glue and gasoline at 10 years old. By 13, Williams was drinking heavily and using speed, acid and quaaludes, according to legal documents. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1972 after serving for two years.
At age 22, Williams killed a friend’s ex-spouse. He was found guilty of second-degree murder and released on parole in 1997.
Five months later, he was accused in the shooting and attempted robbery of a bartender in Baltimore County. He had an alibi, but couldn’t prove it, and
was convicted and sentenced to 100 years in prison.
A detective who had worked on the case as a uniformed officer eventually started looking into Williams’s claims of innocence and found witnesses who had lied under oath. The work persuaded prosecutors to push for his release.
“I had to keep saying to myself, ‘James, it’s okay. James, it’s okay,’ ” Williams said this summer of his time behind bars. Twice, he attempted suicide.
His attorneys petitioned the state for compensation in January 2018. Any money awarded to Williams would be placed in a trust to pay for his care.
The lawyers have not heard from Williams since he was discharged from the hospital; they worry that he may have returned to living on the streets.
Lamar Johnson: 13 years behind bars
Lamar Johnson said he felt as though all the air left his body when the judge said the words: Life plus 20 years.
Tears streamed down his face. He turned to his mother and grandmother, who whispered: “Be strong; everything is going to work out in due time.”
His “due time” came 13 years and five months later when he was exonerated for the 2004 murder of Carlos Sawyer on a city corner in East Baltimore.
Johnson spent seven years working with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project to prove his innocence. His attorneys found three eyewitnesses who said Johnson wasn’t the gunman, and a witness who said a different man admitted to the crime.
“Some days I felt hopeless because I thought I would never get out,” said Johnson, now 36 and doing maintenance work for Blue Ocean Realty, a company that has worked to help the wrongfully convicted. “But then I had a little hope because I knew I didn’t do the crime.”
When he was released, his mother threw a party to celebrate in a three-bedroom apartment in East Baltimore.
While everyone was gathered, Johnson found himself crouched on the bathroom floor unable to move. He sat there for 45 minutes.
Later, he said, he realized it was an early indication of the difficult road he would have trying to adjust to his freedom.
Williams, who now has his own place in Baltimore, avoids crowds because they remind him of the prison mess hall. He often jumps when he hears loud noises, because it brings back memories of prison violence. He’s been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and said no amount of money could compensate him for the lost years and the pain he endured.
“I was basically tortured mentally,” he said. “It kind of broke me. I’m still suffering. . . I’m happy and thankful that I’m home, but I think I need counseling.”
Clarence Shipley Jr.: 27 years behind bars
The prosecutor offered him 15 years if he would plead guilty in the 1991 killing of Kevin Smith. Clarence Shipley Jr. refused.
“I told them it wasn’t me. The whole time, you know, it wasn’t me, it wasn’t me,” Shipley, now 48, recalled one recent day.
Despite many failed attempts to get his conviction overturned, he always maintained his innocence.
“I had to keep fighting,” he said. “I wanted to get back to my family. I can’t give up. I didn’t want to die. I was sentenced to die in that prison.”
Shipley grew up in South Baltimore and was working at a warehouse as a laborer when he was convicted. His family and friends hired a retired detective to look into his case, which was later determined to be based on faulty witness testimony.
While in prison, Shipley mourned the loss of his 12-year-old son, who died in a house fire in 2002. He missed watching his other son grow up. But Clarence Shipley III stood beside his father, with his hand on his shoulder, as he faced television cameras the day he was released.
Shipley says he isn’t bitter and holds no ill will against anyone who participated in his incarceration. He says he became a Christian while incarcerated and that his faith in God allowed him to endure.
A family friend helped him get a job transporting drywall for a construction company. Now, he is doing maintenance for Blue Ocean Realty. He lives in Baltimore County with his wife, Jameka, whom he met and married while incarcerated, and his daughter and son. He divides his days among work, family and church.
“I forgave everybody that I wanted to forgive — the judge, the prosecutors, the eyewitness . . . I forgave them,” Shipley said. “I got to know God for myself . . . He still has his hands on me.”
Shipley was freed just days before Christmas last year. Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby (D) apologized to him and wished him a happy holiday.
Asked what compensation from the state would mean, he said, his voice cracking: “Not only would it help me, it would help my family. My family still lives in the projects, still struggling. It would do a lot for me.”
Jerome Johnson: 29 years behind bars
Jerome Johnson tried 15 times to get the courts to overturn his conviction. Each time he was denied.
Twenty-two years after being convicted, Johnson was on his eighth attorney. Nancy Forster presented new evidence about faulty witness testimony to the Baltimore state’s attorney.
After they interviewed numerous witnesses, Johnson was declared innocent.
He walked out of prison on July 2, 2018, having served 29 years. Two days later, he watched the fireworks at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to celebrate his freedom.
According to his petition for $3.5 million in compensation, Johnson was nearly stabbed to death by fellow inmates in 1990 and 1995. He missed the deaths of his parents and could not actively parent his daughter, who was a newborn when he was arrested at age 20. The two have never formed a bond.
Johnson is also suing the Baltimore City Police Department alleging that police purposely withheld evidence in the 1988 killing of Aaron Taylor.
Through his attorney, he declined an interview.
Walter Lomax: 39 years behind bars
When 20-year-old Walter Lomax was arrested for murder in 1967, he was naive about the justice system.
“I thought that the system worked, and that, since I had not committed the crime, they would find out the person who did and I would be released,” Lomax wrote in a book of essays about his incarceration.
He served almost 40 years in prison, the longest of any exoneree in Maryland’s history.
When he left for the police station in 1968, “I was thinking, ‘I’ll be coming back that afternoon,’ ” said Lomax, sitting in his office at Restorative Justice, the nonprofit he heads that works on social justice issues.
“I didn’t know it would take nearly 40 years to get back to that point.”
Lomax, now 71, spent his early years in Tappahannock, Va., a small town nearly 125 miles from Baltimore. He moved to Maryland with his family at age 10. At 15, he said, he got into some trouble with the law and was charged with robbery and a car theft.
A few years later, he was wrongly charged with the murder of Robert Brewer, a grocery store night manager, after being included in a roundup by police, who were under great pressure to solve crimes in Baltimore City at the time.
Lomax was identified in a police lineup, a less than reliable way of identifying a suspect.
While in prison, he earned his GED and an associate degree, and served on a state task force that made recommendations for setting up rules for awarding compensation to exonerees.
He said the panel proposed that the state government use the federal model: $50,000 compensation for each year a person served, with awards made in a timely fashion.
In their petitions, Lomax and the other exonerees are requesting about $100,000 for each year served, a starting point in negotiations and an amount that some states pay.
In 2006, a judge ruled that Lomax’s defense lawyer was ineffective — among other things, the attorney did not offer evidence of arm and foot injuries Lomax had that could have proved his innocence. He was released, with the rest of his sentence erased.
In 2014, the prosecutor, armed with new evidence of faulty witnesses and official misconduct, signed a writ of innocence, which vacated the charges against Lomax and enabled him to petition for compensation.
Last year, he asked the Board of Public Works for $3.4 million.
He said it was “unconscionable” for exonerees to experience serving time “and then come out and have to go through this,” again waiting for the justice system to work on their behalf.