Stating that what happened was a “failure of the justice system,” Gov. Wes Moore on Wednesday apologized to a man who spent decades in prison for a 1986 killing in Baltimore before a state spending board approved more than $2.98 million in compensation, as well as housing benefits for him.

Speaking at a Maryland Board of Public Works meeting, Moore said Gary Washington of Baltimore was wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he did not commit: the deadly shooting of Faheem “Bobo” Ali, 17, which happened on Barclay Street, between East 23rd and East 24th streets in Barclay, on Dec. 27, 1986.

“On behalf of the entire state, I’m sorry for the failure of the justice system,” Moore said. “And while I know today there is no amount that can undo the injustice, that can make up for what this state took from you, I’m just prayerful that right now this state can be able to pour into you, in the way that your family deserves.”

Washington, now 63, spent more than 31 years in prison on charges of first-degree murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. He will receive an initial payment of almost $95,000 on June 4 and six subsequent installments of more than $481,000 until 2027. That’s along with over $89,000 in housing benefits.

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Moore recounted the life moments that Washington missed during his imprisonment and spoke about how he never gave up hope.

During his incarceration, Washington was an avid reader and turned to “Strength to Love” by Martin Luther King Jr., Moore said. He said the book is one of his favorites and read a quote from it.

“Mr. Washington, we are so deeply sorry,” said Moore, who looked at Washington from time to time during his remarks. “We are honored to call you our neighbor as a Marylander. And we just hope that your tomorrows will be better than your yesterdays.”

Otis Robinson, who was 12 at the time, implicated Washington in the killing. Washington alleged that a friend — who has not been charged with a crime — was responsible for the killing.

Robinson later recanted his testimony and alleged that police had threatened him.

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Baltimore Circuit Judge Charles J. Peters in 2018 granted a petition for writ of actual innocence and awarded Washington a new trial. The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office dropped the charges in 2019.

Earlier this year, Administrative Law Judge Ann C. Kehinde ruled that Washington was erroneously convicted, sentenced and incarcerated and awarded him compensation. Prosecutors opposed the request and unsuccessfully appealed the decision.

Washington filed a lawsuit in 2019 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore against the Baltimore Police Department and the police officers involved in the case.

U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher later ruled in favor of the police officers, but her decision is on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Washington and his attorney, Renee Spence, attended the meeting but declined to comment because the appeal is pending.

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Treasurer Dereck Davis said he hopes that prosecutors have “gotten better and more judicious” in the decades since Washington stood trial.

“Yes, they are relying on the information supplied by police officers, but they have a certain judgment call and a certain responsibility,” Davis said. “We can’t be in such a haste to be able to get a conviction — which is very important — but it’s more important that we get it right.”

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