Wrongly imprisoned man to get $1.5 million

/ Source: The Associated Press

A man who spent 26 years in prison for a bank robbery and murder he did not commit settled his wrongful incarceration lawsuit against the state for $1.5 million.

The agreement between Gary James and Attorney General Marc Dann's office awards the former prisoner $700,000 upfront and $500,000 to be disbursed over 15 years. His lawyers get the remaining $300,000.

James, 54, and a childhood friend, Timothy Howard, were convicted of a 1976 bank robbery in Columbus and the murder of a guard, Berne Davis, who was shot execution-style. They received death sentences, which were commuted to life in prison when Ohio's capital-punishment law was ruled unconstitutional in 1978.

Both men were released from prison in 2003 after Howard's conviction was overturned based on exonerating evidence not disclosed to the defense at trial. The evidence included fingerprints at the crime scene that matched neither man, witness statements that appeared to contradict trial testimony and previously unreleased police reports.

James and Howard had to file civil claims to be declared they were innocent. Howard won a jury verdict, and a judge declared James was wrongfully convicted. Howard settled his wrongful imprisonment lawsuit for $2.5 million last year, but he died in March after a heart attack.

James settled for less than Howard because he had lower legal bills and less job experience with which to calculate lost wages, James' attorney James Owen said.

"He's very happy," Owen said. "He feels he can get some closure on this matter and get on with the rest of his life. Nothing could be fair. Nothing could make up for all those days he spent in prison and on Death Row."

The agreement reached Thursday still must be approved by the state's Controlling Board.

Prosecutors have said reopening the investigation into the bank robbery and Davis' murder would be impossible after all these years.