A Maryland man who spent nearly 19 years in prison for an attempted murder he did not commit has won $1.6 million in compensation.
Melvin Thomas, now 40, was awarded more than $1.6 million in compensation on Wednesday after a unanimous vote from Maryland’s Board of Public Works, the Times Union reported.
“For all Marylanders who have been imprisoned wrongfully, Mr. Thomas is a victim of a broken criminal justice system that continues to plague the country,” Comptroller Peter Franchot said on Wednesday. “Although no dollar amount can restore what was taken from him, I assume that today’s action will bring some solace.”
Thomas’ first payment of $84,805 will be made within 30 days, and he will continue to receive payments for the next seven years, with nearly $11,000 going toward mental health and financial counseling, the outlet reported.
“Let me say to Mr. Thomas, I represent the State and the State has wronged you. We ask for your forgiveness and commit to working with you as you gain your freedom and reenter society,” Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a press release following the vote.
As The Daily Wire previously reported, a man survived being shot outside a bar in East Baltimore in 2001. Shortly after the shooting, the victim, who has not been named, told police that he had seen his shooter with someone he knew, a man named Donte Lyle. The victim did not know the shooter, however.
The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP) reported that during the investigation, police started to suspect one man, but for some reason, put a picture of that man’s brother, Melvin Thomas, in the photo lineup for the victim to overlook. The victim identified Thomas as his shooter and Thomas was arrested and charged with attempted murder. “Melvin was convicted based solely on that testimony, even though Melvin didn’t match the description of the shooter and had no other known connection to the victim, the shooting, or the bar,” reported the organization, which helps to free wrongly convicted individuals.
Thomas sat in prison for years, even after the victim realized the real shooter was still on the street. The victim told police that he was at a flea market in Baltimore when he noticed a person he realized at that moment was the real shooter. He told attorney Booth Ripke of the Nathans & Biddle law firm about this revelation. Ripke took the recantation and additional evidence to MAIP and suggested they present the case to Baltimore’s Conviction Integrity Unit.
“In June 2019, Booth, accompanied by MAIP Legal Director Frances Walters and Baltimore City Paralegal/Investigator Emily Pate, presented the case to the CIU. Despite the pandemic and the limitations that places on investigation, the CIU was able to corroborate the victim’s recantation and gather additional evidence of Melvin’s innocence. Based on that evidence of innocence, the CIU agreed to seek Melvin’s release through a Writ of Actual Innocence. In granting the writ, the court made Melvin the ninth person exonerated through the CIU-MAIP partnership since 2015,” MAIP reported.
On December 15, 2020, nearly 19 years after he was convicted of attempted murder, Thomas was released from prison.
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