- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 17, 2002

BALTIMORE (AP) Two Baltimore area state senators say they will push for a bill that would compensate the Baltimore man released from prison this month after 20 years of wrongful incarceration, if neither the governor nor the governor-elect takes steps to pay him for his time behind bars.
State Sens. Ralph M. Hughes and Delores G. Kelley said they expect Gov. Parris N. Glendening or Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to pardon Bernard Webster, 40, who was convicted in 1983 of a rape that DNA testing shows he did not commit. Mr. Webster needs the pardon before he can ask the state Board of Public Works for renumeration.
There may not be anything in Mr. Webster's case for a governor to pardon. Mr. Webster is no longer convicted of anything; a judge overturned his rape conviction this month.
And without a pardon, under current law, he cannot get money.
One man who was wrongfully convicted in Maryland Kirk Bloodsworth, exonerated of rape and murder charges in 1993 was pardoned and received $300,000 in compensation.
But Mr. Webster's defense attorneys say they don't know how it was possible for Mr. Bloodsworth to get a pardon, and no private attorney has offered to represent Mr. Webster in his future dealings with the state.
The apparent Catch-22, along with general confusion over Mr. Webster's status, highlights the gap in Maryland law when it comes to compensating the wrongfully convicted.
Glendening spokeswoman Racal Guilty said the governor had no comment on the case. Mr. Ehrlich was on vacation and unavailable to discuss the case, his aides said.
Mr. Hughes and Miss Kelley said the state needs to do something for Mr. Webster, who walked out of prison with no money, no family, no home and no job.
"If a person's liberty has been denied them because of a false conviction, society is just to give some kind of compensation," said Miss Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat.
Mr. Hughes, a Democrat from Baltimore city, said he would introduce a bill in the next session mandating compensation and other forms of assistance to people like Mr. Webster.
Mr. Webster is living alone in temporary housing. He is "following up" on many of the job offers he received after his exoneration became public, according to the state public defender's office. He has declined requests for interviews with the news media.


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