A man who was wrongfully imprisoned for years, including more than a year after he was found innocent, after being charged with two distinct violent crimes will receive compensation from the state of Maryland.
Demetrius Smith, who spent more than five years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of mur*der and first-degree assault, received more than $340,000 in compensation from a Maryland board on Wednesday.
Before the three-member Board of Public Works approved the settlement, Gov. Wes Moore apologized to Smith and noted that it had been more than ten years since Smith was released in 2013.
Moore addressed Smith, who was present at the hearing, saying, “We’re here today, more than ten years after he was released from prison, providing Mr. Smith with long overdue justice that he was deprived of, an apology from the state of Maryland that until today he’s never received.”
When Smith was falsely accused of mu*rder in 2008, he was 25 years old.
The judge at Smith’s bail hearing had stated that the case was “probably the thinnest case” he had ever seen, according to Gov. Moore. Moore claimed that despite this, “the prosecution was determined to press forward, relying on testimony from a witness who was later found to have not even been at the scene of the crime.”
Smith was detained for first-degree assault less than two months after his arrest and while out on bail. The governor claimed that the prosecution had once more used witnesses who had since changed their stories.
Smith was found guilty in 2010 and given a life sentence plus 18 years. He maintained his innocence and entered an Alford plea in 2011 to the assault charge. Moore claimed that Smith decided to plead guilty after losing confidence in the criminal justice system. A defendant who enters an Alford plea does not admit guilt, but rather acknowledges that they would probably be found guilty if the case went to trial.
The murd*erer who was actually responsible for the crime was charged in 2011, and Smith’s innocence was established. But the governor claimed that he was still imprisoned for an additional year and a half. The state didn’t actually overturn the mu*rder conviction until 2012.
When Smith asked the court to reconsider his Alford plea to the assault charge in May 2013, the court changed his sentence to time served along with three years of probation, which was later reduced to probation.
While no amount of money can make up for what was taken from you, Moore said to Smith, “the action this board is taking today represents a formal acknowledgment from the state for the injustice that was caused.” Moore expressed his deep regret for the fact that Smith had been wronged twice by the justice system.