Despite momentum to improve exoneree compensation, a group of lawmakers used the COVID-19 crisis to run out the clock on legislation that would have fixed Maryland’s law. As a result, the majority of Maryland’s innocent will continue struggling without compensation, now with the additional health and economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This Tuesday, April 7, at 3pm, Baltimore exonerees Walter Lomax and Demetrius Smith will host a virtual town hall to talk about exoneree compensation and the unique challenges facing exonerees and innocent people still behind bars during the COVID-19 crisis. They will be joined by representatives from the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, and the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic. Learn how you can be part of the effort to fix Maryland’s compensation law.
Join the fight to compensate exonerees in Maryland
Some background on Maryland’s flawed compensation law
Maryland’s current compensation law is restrictive, compensating only 11 of the more than 30 exonerees in the state.
- There is no set dollar amount. Unlike most other state compensation laws, there is no fixed amount of compensation and the Board of Public Works can determine the payment on a case-by-case basis.
- The Board of Public Works should not be in charge. The Board’ main role is funding capital projects. It doesn’t have the expertise to determine who should be compensated, when and how much, but under current law it has complete discretion to make those decisions.
- Unfair eligibility requirements. Exonerees must receive a governor’s pardon or state attorney’s agreement to a writ of innocence. These are only two of several ways to overturn a wrongful conviction, and the law excludes many exonerees, including those whose convictions were overturned with DNA and with evidence illegally withheld at trial.
- Provide a set amount of $81,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment (equal to state median household income).
- Judges should determine who is eligible.
- Eligibility should be based on proof of innocence, not the specific type of exoneration.