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Baltimore man exonerated in 1991 murder after 30 years in prison

“What we have here is a conviction that was based entirely on the uncorroborated testimony of a jailhouse witness,” said Michele Nethercott, who represented Paul M. Madison. (File photo)

A 60-year-old Baltimore man will go free after serving almost 30 years in prison for a 1991 murder that state prosecutors now agree he likely did not commit.

Paul M. Madison appeared briefly Tuesday at a virtual hearing in Baltimore City Circuit Court, where his conviction in the killing of William Richardson was vacated at the request of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office.

Madison was convicted based on the testimony of a single eyewitness who was facing felony charges when police questioned her about the murder.

The woman’s charges were dropped in exchange for her testimony, according to information provided in court, but both she and the detective who handled the case lied at Madison’s trial and denied knowledge of the deal.

“What we have here is a conviction that was based entirely on the uncorroborated testimony of a jailhouse witness,” said Michele Nethercott, who represented Madison. “Even some aspects that could easily have been corroborated were not.”

Madison was convicted of second-degree murder along with another man, Clarence Colston, who has since died. Both men were sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Lauren Lipscomb, who heads the Conviction Integrity Unit in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, said in court that the evidence did not support vacating Colston’s conviction.

Police began investigating Colston soon after the murder, according to information provided by the defense, and received a tip that implicated Colston and two other people, including a different person named Paul.

Information about the other two suspects was not disclosed to Madison’s defense lawyer, according to the state’s motion to vacate the conviction. Another lead, which had suggested the jailhouse informant may have been involved in the crime, also was not investigated, according to the motion.

A man also came forward more recently and said that Colston told him Madison was not involved in the shooting, the state wrote in its motion.

Colston said that he was the person who shot the victim and that his relative, also named Paul, had been at the scene of the murder, according to information provided by the defense. Colston said that he could not help Madison without implicating himself in the crime.

Lipscomb said in court that Richardson’s family had been notified of the hearing and deferred to the Conviction Integrity Unit’s recommendation.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn granted the motion to vacate Madison’s conviction.

The case was reopened after Madison submitted an application to Baltimore’s Conviction Integrity Unit in September 2019. Madison has maintained his innocence in the case throughout his time in prison, Nethercott said in court.