But since then-governor Terry McAuliffe declared him innocent in December 2016 and set him free, Davis has been eligible for compensation from the state. Under a wrongful-incarceration formula set by statute, Davis is eligible for nearly $600,000. McAuliffe (D) put the money in the two-year budget he proposed shortly before leaving office in January.
Whether Davis actually gets the money this year will come down to budget negotiations, which promise to be especially difficult.
Under state law, anyone granted an absolute pardon may be awarded compensation equal to 90 percent of the state’s per capita personal income for each year of wrongful incarceration, plus a $10,000 award for community college tuition. That works out to $582,313 for Davis, 33, who struggles to make ends meet as a security guard and maintenance worker.
“He made $12,000 last year,” said Davis’s pro bono lawyer, Steven Rosenfield, who accompanied him to Richmond. “He’s just so disabled because of being in prison from 18 to 31. . . . It’s very difficult to leap to the middle class as a result.”
Following McAuliffe’s lead, the House of Delegates included Davis’s compensation in its budget. But the Senate left it out of its leaner spending plan.
Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) suggested the problem was procedural. House Minority Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville) had submitted a bill seeking restitution for Davis, a constituent. There was no similar legislation introduced in the Senate, “so that’s why there was no corresponding budgetary money,” Norment said Tuesday at a Senate Finance Committee meeting.
That would not stop budget negotiators from including the sum in whatever compromise they hash out. But there is no guarantee, particularly at a time when the two sides are unusually far apart.
The House budget is far more flush than the Senate’s because the lower chamber’s plan calls for expanding Medicaid, which would free up $421 million spent on health care.
Even as he urged the committee to pass his bill, Toscano acknowledged that it represents “a fair bit of money.” The committee voted for it, but with a clause that makes passage contingent on funding.
Davis and Rosenfield did not speak to the committee, but they headed out afterward to lobby legislators. Davis had dressed up for the occasion in a black suit lent by a friend. He paired it with a Grateful Dead tie tack.
“One of my friends gave it to me as a good luck thing,” he said.
If the conference committee does not include the money, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) could propose it as a budget amendment. Northam spokeswoman Ofirah Yheskel said he “supports inclusion of the settlement” and “trusts the General Assembly to reconcile the issue in conference.” Davis could also come back next year.
Davis was one of three teenagers convicted in the deaths of Nola Charles, 41, and her 3-year-old son, William, who were found dead in February 2003 in their Albemarle County home. Nola Charles had been beaten and stabbed. William died in a fire apparently set after the slaying. No motive was determined, news reports said at the time.
The other two convicted teens — Rocky Fugett, 19, and Jessica Fugett, 15 — were siblings and neighbors of the Charles family. The Fugetts admitted to the murders but also implicated Davis, someone they knew and bullied at Western Albemarle High School, according to Toscano’s bill.
Davis, then 18 and in a special program for learning-disabled students, denied any involvement. But worn down by “improper and questionable” interrogation, he eventually made a false confession, Toscano’s bill states. No physical evidence tied him to the crime.
Facing a potential life sentence if convicted, Davis entered an “Alford plea” in 2004 that allowed him to maintain his innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors could prove the charges. He was sentenced to 23 years.
Two years later, Rocky Fugett, serving a 75-year sentence, recanted his claim that Davis had been involved. It took until 2012 for Jessica Fugett, serving a 100-year sentence, to do the same.
That year, Rosenfield filed a clemency petition. After an investigation, McAuliffe issued a conditional pardon that freed Davis in December 2015. His absolute pardon came a year later, after the Albemarle County police chief and a senior detective concluded that Davis’s confession had been improperly obtained.