- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2007

RICHMOND (AP) — Virginia will pay $1.9 million to a mildly retarded man who spent nearly a decade on death row and came within nine days of being executed for a murder he didn’t commit, according to a tentative agreement.

If approved by the court, the agreement would toss out a $2.25 million verdict issued in May in favor of the wrongly accused man, Earl Washington Jr.

That decision has been appealed.

A Charlottesville jury found that in 1983, former Virginia State Police investigator Curtis Reese Wilmore gave Mr. Washington details of the crime that only the killer could have known to bolster Mr. Washington’s confession.

Mr. Wilmore has since died. Mr. Washington falsely confessed to the June 4, 1982, rape and murder of Rebecca Lynn Williams, a 19-year-old mother of three, in Culpeper.

Mr. Washington recanted, but was sentenced to death and came within nine days of execution in 1985.

In 2000, DNA testing implicated a convicted rapist, Kenneth Maurice Tinsley.

Mr. Washington was not available Monday for comment.

“If the court signs off on it, obviously it’s the end of a very, very long road,” said Robert Hall, one of Mr. Washington’s attorneys. “Earl will be relieved, and we’ll be relieved that Earl will be taken care of for the balance of his life.”

An attorney representing Mr. Wilmore’s estate said the Wilmore family is pleased that a condition of the agreement will erase last year’s judgment against Mr. Wilmore and dismiss the lawsuit.

Mr. Wilmore was left as the only defendant in the case initially filed in 2002 against numerous officials. He appeared to be the only one in law enforcement who had misgivings about Mr. Washington’s guilt and put them in writing.

The settlement agreement must still be approved by U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon.

According to court papers, the agreement was reached after months of settlement negotiations involving the lawyers, the governor’s office and mediators.

The agreement would distribute the $1.9 million among Mr. Washington and his attorneys.

Kevin Hall, spokesman for Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, confirmed there is a tentative settlement.

“But until the court signs off on it, I’m not at liberty to say a whole lot more,” he said.

Mr. Washington’s attorneys had sought $1.6 million in fees and expenses in addition to last year’s multimillion-dollar judgment.

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