Throughout his 32 years in the Maryland prison system, John Huffington maintained his innocence. Now, with an act from departing Gov. Larry Hogan, it’s official.

Among his final official actions before his term ends Wednesday, the Republican governor pardoned Huffington, who was wrongfully convicted of the 1981 double murder of Diana Becker and Joe Hudson in Harford County, stating that “the interests of the state of Maryland and the grantee [Huffington] will best be served by” granting the pardon.

Speaking to reporters on Friday afternoon, Huffington thanked the governor for clearing his name and showing the “courage to fix this wrong.” He noted that it was the 13th of the month, and that it was also Friday the 13th in November 1981 when he was first convicted at trial for the double murder.

“There are so many pieces to process,” Huffington said. The pardon enables Huffington to seek compensation from the state for his 32 years behind bars and, as he said, “reclaim my family name.”

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Huffington was released from prison in 2013 after newly discovered DNA evidence excluded him as the source of hair samples found at the scene, and led a judge to order a new trial.

In 2017, Huffington entered what’s known as an Alford plea in which he maintained his innocence but acknowledged that a plea was in his best interest in the face of evidence. It was a decision Huffington later said he was pressured into making to avoid further prosecution. But the plea left Huffington’s conviction in tact.

Years later, in October 2021, the Maryland Court of Appeals unanimously ruled to disbar the prosecutor who handled Huffington’s case for more than three decades up until his retirement, former Harford County State’s Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly. The court found that Cassilly had “knowingly and intentionally failed to disclose” exculpatory evidence for more than a decade, discarded evidence, sought to have other evidence in the case destroyed and knowingly made false statements to the court and defense attorneys.

The following month, Huffington took his case to the governor, asking Hogan to clear his name and applying for a pardon. He has spent his years since his release as a manager at Second Chance — a nonprofit that helps people with barriers to employment — and then went on to help with job training and reentry programs at the Living Classrooms Foundation. Now, Huffington is the chief operating officer of a charitable foundation that works to promote income equality in Baltimore.

During the press conference with reporters, Huffington spoke about the importance of the Attorney Grievance Commission, which took the rare step of rebuking a prosecutor, and in this case, disbarring them.

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“We elect prosecutors, and we need to understand what we’re doing when we do that,” Huffington said. “The amount of power we give one person, that’s part of the root cause of our mass incarceration situation in the United States.”

Hogan on Friday also pardoned Walter Lomax, the namesake of a 2021 law passed that guides how wrongfully convicted people should be compensated by the state after their release. Sentenced to life in 1968on charges including first-degree murder, Lomax spent nearly four decades incarcerated following a Baltimore City trial his post-conviction attorneys later described as having “clear suppression of evidence, erroneous cross-racial identifications and police misconduct.”

Those attorneys, who found Lomax after his case was picked up by a nonprofit investigating wrongful convictions, won Lomax his release in December 2006 when a Baltimore City circuit judge found that his trial attorney had failed to provide adequate defense, including failing to call crucial witnesses. But his conviction had remained intact despite his release on time served. That conviction was vacated in 2014 after prosecutors agreed to sign off on a writ of actual innocence.

The outgoing Republican governor pardoned 88 people during his eight years in office, far short of his predecessors. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who also served for eight years, pardoned 146. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican who served a single four-year term before that, pardoned 227 people. Parris Glendening, his Democratic predecessor, pardoned 134 people in eight years.

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This story has been updated to correct the year Walter Lomax was sentenced to life in prison.