Baker Botts issued the following announcement on Oct. 29.
Baker Botts, L.L.P., is thrilled to announce that D.C. lawyers Kristen Lloyd, Jana Seidl, Dan Starck, and Andrew George, successfully obtained a recovery of over $900,000 for their homeless pro bono client, Hubert James Williams, as recompense for spending 12 years in jail for a crime he did not commit.
The story begins in October 1997 with an attempted robbery and double-attempted murder at the Amber Lounge Bar in Essex, Maryland. The state convicted Mr. Williams of the crime in August 1998 based on eyewitness testimony later revealed to be incorrect, and a fabricated confession by a jailhouse informant.
Through 12 horrific years in prison, Mr. Williams suffered assaults and degradations and lost his will to live, winding up comatose for two weeks after a failed suicide attempt. A police investigation determined that he was innocent in November 2009. After a two-minute hearing, Mr. Williams was set free with nothing to his name except the four dollars a good Samaritan gave him for bus fare.
Mr. Williams, a veteran with several mental and physical ailments and substance abuse issues dating back to age nine, spent much of the next decade homeless, living on the streets and in the woods near D.C. He was often victimized by those around him and survived numerous assaults that frequently landed him in the hospital. The VA declared him unemployable.
Baker Botts took up Mr. Williams’s case in 2015 as co-counsel with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, seeking compensation for Mr. Williams. At that time, the only avenue under Maryland law to receive compensation was to first petition the governor for a pardon. But after a law change in 2017, the Baker Botts team pivoted, obtaining a certified writ of actual innocence from the State's Attorney, and filed what would turn out to be Maryland's first successful petition for compensation due to a wrongful conviction in 15 years.
Mr. Williams’ case sat dormant until a recent publicity campaign and pressure from 49 Maryland delegates pushed the Board of Public Works, chaired by Governor Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot, and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, to finally approve compensation for Mr. Williams on October 16, 2019. The Lieutenant Governor's office also intervened to secure Mr. Williams—who had been panhandling on the street before suffering yet another assault—a free long-term stay at a Maryland rehab and detox facility, where he is receiving much needed treatment.
“We were honored to represent James,” said Andrew George, Baker Botts Special Counsel and lead lawyer on the case. “We thank Governor Hogan, Treasurer Kopp, and Comptroller Franchot, as well as Lieutenant Governor Rutherford and the remarkable staff at the Board of Public Works for finally giving James the break he needed,” George further stated.
Mr. Williams will receive his compensation in four installments between the end of this year and July 2021. The funds will be held in a trust for his benefit, managed by former Baker Botts partner Paul Enzinna as trustee.
If you would like to interview the lawyers involved with this Pro Bono case, please contact Sheena Cochran.
Original source can be found here.