John Huffington announced November 9, 2021 that he is seeking a pardon from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to clear his name of crimes that he did not commit, for which he spent 32 years in prison – 10 of which were spent on Death Row.
“For 40 years, I have been sharing my truth publicly while facing the very harsh realities of being wrongly convicted and imprisoned for crimes that I did not commit,” said Mr. Huffington. “By pardoning me, Governor Hogan can correct the injustices I have suffered and clear my name.”
In 1981, Mr. Huffington was wrongfully convicted on two counts of first-degree murder. In 2013, as the result of newly discovered DNA evidence that demonstrated that hairs discovered at the crime scene were not Mr. Huffington’s, the Circuit Court for Frederick County, Maryland, granted Mr. Huffington’s petition for a writ of actual innocence, vacated his murder convictions, and ordered a new trial. Despite the key evidence used to convict Mr. Huffington being discredited, the prosecution continued to pursue the case. In 2017, Mr. Huffington submitted an Alford plea, a special type of plea by which the defendant asserts his innocence and does not admit to the charged act, while acknowledging that a plea is in his best interests.
Mr. Huffington has always maintained his innocence of the charged offenses. However, the Alford plea resulted in a judicial conviction that actively hinders his success – in the personal, professional, and financial spheres. A key reason for the Alford plea was the conduct of the state’s attorney, Joseph Cassilly, who violated his ethical and prosecutorial obligations of honesty with the court and counsel and to disclose any evidence that undermines the prosecution’s case. On October 22, 2021, following a petition from the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission, the Maryland Court of Appeals unanimously ruled to disbar Mr. Cassilly in a resounding opinion finding that Mr. Cassilly deliberately concealed exculpatory evidence in Mr. Huffington’s case. A pardon by Governor Hogan would be an important step on the path to right the injustices done by Mr. Cassilly and helping to relieve Mr. Huffington of the burdens of his wrongful conviction.
“At the hands of our criminal justice system, John Huffington has suffered grave injustices since his teenage years for crimes that he did not commit,” said Ropes & Gray partner Chong S. Park. “Despite spending the most formative decades of his life wrongfully incarcerated, Mr. Huffington lives a positive life of service to others. I strongly urge Governor Hogan to pardon Mr. Huffington and in doing so, right the wrongs that have tainted his name for too long.” Teams of Ropes & Gray pro bono lawyers have represented Mr. Huffington in connection with this matter for more than 30 years.
Today, Mr. Huffington is actively pursuing volunteer and charity work to better his community, focusing on assisting recently released individuals, and enacting criminal justice reform, and has managed to successfully forge a career path, despite the adversity he faced.
Click here to watch a recording of the press conference announcing John Huffington’s application for pardon.
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