April 5, 2006
After a two week trial and nearly six hours of deliberations, the jury in the Earl Washington civil suit awarded him $2.25 million.
"I feel great. It took a long time coming. I finally made it," said Earl Washington.
The 23 year legal journey of Earl Washington has come full circle. After spending nine years on death row for a crime he didn't commit, Washington today won his civil lawsuit.
"The hope is that this case will be a learning moment for the people of the Commonwealth," said Attorney Peter Neufeld.
A nine person federal jury found that Virginia State Police Investigator Curtis Wilmore fabricated a confession that lead to the prosecution of Washington. Washington was found guilty of the 1982 rape and murder of Rebecca Lynn Williams in Culpeper. In 2000, DNA evidence exonerated him. Washington's attorney says this one example of the system's imperfections.
"Earl Washington went through all the state courts and all the federal courts. They all affirmed that conviction. They all said the sentence of death was correct. They were all wrong," Neufeld said.
After this verdict, the 46-year-old Washington, who is married and living in Virginia Beach says he is unsure of what the future holds.
"I don't know man. It's something that I have to think about what I am going to do," Washington said.
In the mean time, his friends and legal team say they are going to celebrate the victory.
"We are going to celebrate his final vindication and recognition of not only his innocence but that he was wronged and was damaged and hurt," said Attorney Robert Hall.
The defense team declined comment after the trial. They have 17 days to file a motion to have the verdict thrown out. A motion that sources close to the case say will unlikely work. This is one of the most significant monetary outcomes in a civil rights case in Virginia history.