A Maryland man convicted of murder in 1983 has spent 27 years in prison for a crime that a legal clinic in Maryland says he did not commit.
Mark Farley Grant, who was 14 when he was arrested for a shooting in a botched robbery, is said to be the victim of false testimony and a flawed defense. He always maintained his innocence, including letters to the Post-Conviction Advocacy clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law. After reviewing his case for almost two years, they took him on as client. In gathering information and working on the case, the clinic says it identified the apparent real perpetrator and requested clemency for Grant.
Yesterday, Dan Rodrick wrote in his Baltimore Sun column that the governor’s office has yet to take action in overturning the conviction.
Given the Maryland governor’s reluctance to commute a sentence or grant clemency to anyone — as well as his embrace of the no-parole-for-lifers and “life means life” philosophy — it’s hard to imagine Martin O’Malley ever acting on Mr. Grant’s case, never mind in an election year.
But, of course, had there been some DNA, this all might have been over by now, and Mark Grant would be out on the street looking for a job.
Now that we are in the age of DNA testing, claims of wrongful convictions without it appear to be at a striking disadvantage, especially if calculating, what’s-in-it-for-me politicians are asked to make a judgment call. The availability of DNA testing and resulting exonerations have “made it harder for prisoners seeking to prove their innocence in the much larger number of cases that do not involve DNA evidence,” The New York Times reported last year. “Many lawyers have grown more reluctant to take on these kinds of cases because they are much harder and more expensive to pursue.”
Maryland received a Bloodsworth Award—named for Kirk Bloodsworth, the first person exonerated by DNA testing in the U.S. who had spent time on death row—from the National Institute of Justice last year to be used for post-conviction DNA testing. But Grant’s case does not include DNA evidence. The clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law says that it proved his innocence by reviewing affidavits of witnesses who said they lied at trial and the discovery of a failed lie detector test by the key prosecution witness.
However, earlier this year, Governor Martin O’Malley’s chief legal counsel mentioned the Bloodsworth award in a letter to Grant’s aunt saying that the request for clemency will be reviewed seriously. It’s already been two years.