Demetrius Smith lost five years of his life, wrongly imprisoned for a murder and assault he did not commit. And even after the actual murderers were convicted, he’s spent years seeking an apology and compensation from the state.

He finally was vindicated on Wednesday.

The state’s top spending board approved paying Smith about $227,000 in compensation, $89,000 in housing assistance and $25,000 for his legal fees.

And he got an apology from Gov. Wes Moore.

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“As the governor, you get to see things and hear things the state has done and in some cases that gives you a sense of pride ... And there’s certain things that you see and read that frankly fosters a sense of embarrassment and hurt,” the Democratic governor said. “This is one of those days where we, as a state, got this really wrong. And on behalf of the entire state, I apologize.”

Smith was present at the State House as Moore and the other members of the Board of Public Works unanimously approved the compensation package. After the vote, the room rose in a standing ovation for Smith.

Smith declined to comment through his lawyer, citing the exhaustion from the eventful and meaningful day. He previously testified that what he sought most was an apology for the wrongful conviction.

“You know, that’s all I ever asked,” Smith said in 2022. “It’s not even about the money because that’s not going to bring back the time, we can’t get, I can’t get them years back ever. They gone.”

Wednesday’s vote had been a long time coming for Smith, who faced legal hurdles in winning compensation, even as other wrongly convicted Marylanders received payments and apologies under the Walter Lomax Act.

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Enacted in 2021 and named for an exonerated man who has been a diligent advocate for fellow exonerees, the Walter Lomax Act set up a system and formula for compensating those found to be innocent after their convictions. Before that, there was no standard for compensation, and exonerees were caught in an often-political process.

But Smith’s case didn’t quite fit in the bounds of the Walter Lomax Act, leading him to a yearslong fight with multiple appeals. His case for compensation was pending in a state appeals court before the state and his lawyers reached the settlement that was voted on Wednesday.

Smith now lives in Baltimore and owns a landscaping business. His lawyer said Smith has plans to take college classes now.

Smith’s saga began back in 2008, when 36-year-old Robert Long was shot and killed near a park in Southwest Baltimore. Police, relying on testimony from a jailhouse informant and a woman who later recanted, arrested Smith. At a bail review hearing, a judge said it was “probably the thinnest case I’d ever seen.”

While out on bail, Smith was arrested on charges of assault related to a shooting of a different man, Clyde Hendricks. He was sent to jail to await trial.

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Smith always maintained his innocence in both cases, but was convicted of the murder of Long in 2010. For the assault of Hendricks, Smith went to court in 2011 and entered an Alford plea, which allowed him to maintain his innocence while acknowledging there was enough evidence for a conviction.

He was sentenced to life in prison for the murder and a concurrent 10 years for the assault.

But both cases eventually fell apart. And federal investigators found evidence that different men were responsible for the murder of Long; they were later convicted in federal court. Smith sought a new trial in the case of Long’s murder and the charges were dropped.

In 2013, Smith’s sentence for the assault conviction was modified by a judge to time served and he was released from prison. Later, he got the conviction changed to probation before judgement.

Once the Walter Lomax Act was passed in 2021, Smith applied for the compensation and benefits for the five years he was incarcerated.

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Baltimore prosecutors argued Smith was not eligible for compensation for the assault conviction. And the state Office of the Attorney General said Smith wasn’t eligible for compensation for the murder conviction, either, because the time he spent behind bars in that case also applied to the assault case.

Smith’s compensation case has wound through a state administrative court, circuit court and had been pending in the Appellate Court of Maryland.

Smith’s lawyer, Ralph Mayrell, was confident he was interpreting the law correctly and Smith would have eventually won in court.

Between appealing the denial of compensation and the profile of Smith’s plight being raised by an article in The Baltimore Banner, Mayrell said it led the state to reevaluate whether “to keep fighting about the technicalities or do the right thing, and they chose to do the right thing.”

“Once it became a question of policy, then it allowed the attorney general to consider what would be the fair result for Mr. Smith, as opposed to this being a battle of lawyers in a court of law,” Mayrell said.

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In a statement, Attorney General Anthony Brown said that what happened to Smith was “a failure in our criminal justice system.”

“I am pleased that my Office was able to propose a solution that allows Mr. Smith to receive the compensation and services that he deserves,” Brown’s statement said. “I also echo the apologies Mr. Smith finally received today, and say how profoundly sorry I am for the injustices Mr. Smith has suffered. While the award he received today cannot truly compensate him for the deprivation of his freedom and separation from his family and community, I hope it will help him as he moves forward with his life.”

Baltimore Banner reporter Dylan Segelbaum contributed to this article. This article has been updated with a statement from the attorney general.