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BPW grants $800,000 to man wrongfully imprisoned 8 years

Jack Hogan//May 17, 2023

BPW grants $800,000 to man wrongfully imprisoned 8 years

By Jack Hogan

//May 17, 2023

A man who served nearly eight years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit is set to receive more than $800,000 over the next two-and-a-half years as compensation approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works Wednesday.

David Veney, who was wrongfully convicted about 25 years ago, will receive compensation under the Walter Lomax Act, which lawmakers passed in 2021 to determine how much money exonerees should receive as compensation for their time in prison.

“For me, this started in 1996 with the accusation,” Veney said during the Board of Public Works meeting. “To walk into my home at the time and the first thing that I see was my face on the TV, wanted for a rape that I certainly did not commit and then later found out never happened at all. It has been a burden that I can’t articulate and I’m thankful that, 26 years later, I was finally vindicated.”

The Board of Public Works — made up of the state’s governor, comptroller and treasurer — approved about $714,700 as compensation for Veney’s imprisonment and $8,500 in fees for his lawyers. Veney will also get $89,100 for housing benefits.

Veney is set to receive his first payment by June 9. It will be about $91,400, equal to the state’s most recent median household income.

The state is expected to pay Veney the rest of his compensation in installments of $124,649 every six months through 2025 under an expedited payment schedule.

“We cannot put a price tag on what you’ve lost,” Gov. Wes Moore said to Veney. “We all know that is time you will never be able to get back. But the payments that we are authorizing today, they do represent a formal acknowledgement from the state of Maryland for the injustice that was caused.

“I know I speak for the entire state when I say that I am deeply sorry, that none of this should have happened,” Moore said.

Under the Walter Lomax Act, those who were wrongfully convicted can receive compensation equal to Maryland’s most recent annual median household income multiplied by the length of their incarceration.

Before the Walter Lomax Act — named for a man who has advocated for the wrongfully convicted since his release in 2006 after spending 39 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit — it was up to the Board of Public Works to determine how much and when to pay someone who was exonerated.

Moore said Veney was the 20th person for whom the Board of Public Works has approved compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment.

Since July 2021, the state has paid nearly $4.6 million out of the roughly $9.4 million approved under the Walter Lomax Act, said David Bohannon, general counsel to the Board of Public Works.

Bohannon said the board also continues to make payments on awards approved under the prior version of the statute. As of Wednesday, the state had paid out more than $14.2 million out of the $23.6 million approved.

In 1997, after an initial hung jury, a second jury in the Wicomico County Circuit Court convicted Veney of first-degree rape and first-degree burglary for an alleged attack on a woman in her home in Salisbury in 1996, according to the Board of Public Works meeting agenda.

In 2005, the state granted Veney a new trial after agreeing with the merits of his petition for post-conviction relief, in which he alleged ineffective assistance of counsel.

Veney developed significant evidence of actual innocence and the state declined to reprosecute the case after an additional investigation, the meeting agenda states.

Veney said it was support from a strong family, and the faith, values and belief they instilled in him, that helped him endure years in prison and challenges he continued to face after his conviction was overturned, including his ineligibility for reentry programs.

Veney said he is now the interim director for homeless services in Leesburg, Virginia, and helps people coming out of prison to get reacquainted with society. He does this work without a college degree, “just a passion for helping people.”

Veney said he plans to one day return to the State House for a conversation about getting grant money for projects in Maryland.

“The apology means so much to me,” Veney said, referencing Moore’s earlier comments. “This moment means so much to me.”


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