April 24, 2006
After spending 18 years in prison for a crime he swears he did not commit, Earl Washington of Virginia is looking for retribution. Today began Washington's civil trial. The man spent 10 years on Virginia's death row before being exonerated by DNA evidence in 2000. Now he is looking for closure in a case that has taken away much of his adult life.
"I'm just glad the trial started," said Earl Washington.
The long journey of Earl Washington has now come full circle in a Charlottesville courtroom. The man who came within just nine days of being executed is finally looking for closure.
"This trial is about proving who is responsible for that miscarriage of justice," said Washington's attorney Peter Neufeld.
The 45-year-old is suing former State Police investigator Curtis Wilmore. Washington claims Wilmore falsified a confession in the 1982 rape and murder of a Culpeper woman which led to his conviction. Washington's attorneys say they are trying to show one of the pitfalls of the death penalty.
"It lets us know that not only are mistakes made but they can be fatal," said Washington's attorney Robert Hall.
"What's the price tag on ten years on death row? What's the price tag on being sent to the death house and seeing the electric chair and coming within nine days of execution?" Neufeld asked.
DNA evidence exonerated Washington completely in 2000. The evidence proved that another man, Kenneth Tinsley, committed the crime. However, by then and still today, the damage was done
"He still has flashbacks. He still has nightmares. He still can't purge his memory of that trip into the cool down room where the door was open to the execution chamber," Hall said.
For Washington, he says he can't wait for this all to be over.
"I'm going back home then," he said.
The trial will continue tomorrow with the defense making opening remarks. Curtis Wilmore is being represented by his son. Wilmore died back in 1994 and so Washington is suing his estate. Wilmore claims he wants nothing to tarnish his father's good name. The trial is expected to take approximately two weeks.