The Maryland Board of Public Works approved recently total compensation of approximately $9 million for five men wrongly convicted and later exonerated.
The exonerees are set to receive different award amounts based on the amount of time they spent in prison.
Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) said that they will receive approximately $78,000 for every year they spent in incarceration.
This amount represents the median household income in Maryland, and was chosen intentionally because those affected were deprived of having a house and receiving an income during the time they were incarcerated, Franchot said.
Two wrongly convicted men will be paid in four installments: Hubert James Williams with a total of $903,560, and Walter Lomax with total compensation of $3,026,840.
Compensation installments are scheduled to be paid in gradually larger amounts from the time that the board approved the awarded amounts to 2021 for four installments and to 2025 for those that have eight.
The wrongly convicted men who were granted compensation in eight installments are: Jerome Lamont Johnson with a total of $2,322,032; Lamar Johnson with a total of $953,672; and Clarence Shipley with a total of $2,102,792.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) sat in for Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who had initially suggested the board was not set up to determine compensation amounts.
Two weeks ago, Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Franchot urged Hogan to expedite the process.
“This payment of several million dollars is, in fact, a very small token of the heartfelt apologies of the state and all of our citizens to five people,” Kopp said Wednesday.
Kopp said she wanted to thank and acknowledge the sacrifice that the five men made and that this is their community’s way of recognizing their innocence and that what they went through was wrong.
Franchot said that the standard payment can be revisited for any other individuals who go through the same thing — even though, he said, he hopes this doesn’t happen again.
“We’re compensating people with money but we took from them decades of their lives, how do you pay that back?” Franchot said.
Walter Lomax told Capital News Service last week that he’s thankful that the board has developed a method that can be passed along to others in similar situations and provide immediate satisfaction.
Lomax was released from prison in 2006 after serving for almost 40 years for a murder he wasn’t responsible for.
Lomax said that it’s not possible to address the issue of fairness, in regard to having awarded compensation, because the situation that those affected went through is “unfathomable.”
He said that he would spend the money by buying a home, and set procedures so that he can establish generational wealth for his family.
He said that he’d like to establish a procedure so that family members facing difficult times can have a quality life.
Lomax said he also wants to donate some of his awarded money to the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative and the Mandela Enterprise.
The Board also voted on and approved a construction contract for the Department of Veterans Affairs that implements a year long expansion of burial capacity for the Cheltenham Veterans Cemetery for $6,522,300.
• A concession contract with EZ Connect Shuttle that gives the non-exclusive right to utilize a shared-ride ground transportation service through a phone app at BWI Marshall airport that starts on Nov. 1.
• Maintenance contract for the Police Correctional Training Commission that allows removal of asphalt surfaces and an application of an emulsified sealcoat for $106,500.
Franchot said his new task force, “E-Facts,” aims to determine the best course of action in dealing with popular electronic smoking and vaping devices. The Maryland Health Department reports at least 43 cases of vape-related injuries and patients have reported various respiratory problems. At least 34 people have died of causes related to vaping or e-cigarette use nationwide as of Oct. 22, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Franchot said that there aren’t enough laws for nicotine usage and that his job as the tobacco regulator is to monitor public health and keep these products out of youths’ hands.