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$2.25 Million Award for Virginia Man Falsely Sent to Death Row
Earl Washington, then 23, was convicted of a rape/murder in 1984. The conviction was based solely on his confession which allegedly gave details known only to the police. In 1994, DNA evidence threw doubt on his guilt and Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder commuted his sentence to life. In 2000, improved DNA testing excluded him while connecting a convicted rapist to the crime through semen found at the scene of the murder. In 2001, Washington was released from prison after completing his sentence in an unrelated crime.
Washington, who is mildly mentally retarded, filed a civil rights action in federal district court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that special agent Curtis Reese Wilmore had fed him the ?undisclosed? facts that were stated in his ?confession,? leading to his conviction for a murder and rape he did not commit. He also alleged that Wilmore, who died while Washington was in prison, misrepresented to the prosecutor that the facts had come from Washington.
Washington presented experts to prove that, although he would have been in prison for the entire sentence he served, his time on death row was much worse than his time would have been had he been in general population the ten years. His lawyers argued that he had suffered severe psychological trauma while on death row and continued to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder due to that trauma. He sought damages for pain and suffering.
On May 5, 2006, after a two-week trail, a unanimous decision found that Wilmore knowingly fabricated the confession which was proximate cause for Washington?s conviction and death row confinement. They awarded him $2.25 million against Wilmore?s estate. Washington was represented by attorneys Debbie Cornwall and Peter J. Neufeld of New York, New York; Robert T. Hall of Reston, Virginia; and Barry A. Weinstein of Elikins, West Virginia. See: Washington v. Buraker, USDC, WDVA, Charlottesville Div., Case No. 3:02-CV-106-NKM-BWC.
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