Maryland Governor Larry Hogan Grants Full Innocence Pardon to John N. Huffington
Today, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland granted a full innocence pardon to John N. Huffington, who served 32 years in prison for crimes he did not commit—10 on death row.
“Thank you, Governor Hogan, for granting me a full innocence pardon and for clearing my name,” Mr. Huffington said. “I have fought for over 40 years for this day and I feel a deep sense of closure and vindication. This pardon officially acknowledges that I was wrongly convicted and imprisoned for crimes I never committed.”
“This is justice. Granting John a full innocence pardon was the right thing to do, and we are elated by the governor’s decision,” said Chong S. Park, partner in Ropes & Gray’s Washington, D.C. office and counsel to Mr. Huffington. “John suffered grave injustices. He was wrongfully convicted, put on death row, and subject to outrageous prosecutorial misconduct. We fought hard to right these many wrongs. Despite his wrongful conviction, John has led an exemplary life, both during his time in prison and upon release. To see John succeed, and to have Governor Hogan finally clear his name, is incredibly inspiring. I cannot begin to tell you how much this day means to John and to our firm that has worked tirelessly on his behalf for over 33 years.”
Mr. Park added, “I would also like to acknowledge the contributions of Erica Suter, Director of the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law, who provided critical and invaluable assistance at this last stage—the pardon application proceedings.”
In 1981, Mr. Huffington was wrongfully convicted on two counts of first-degree murder, in large part based on hair evidence found at the crime scene. In 2013, DNA testing proved that the hair was 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.
However, despite the discrediting of its key evidence, 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 hindered 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. On October 22, 2021, following a petition from the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission, the Maryland Court of Appeals unanimously ruled to disbar Mr. Cassilly, finding that Mr. Cassilly lied to the court and deliberately concealed exculpatory evidence in Mr. Huffington’s case.
Today’s pardon by Governor Hogan vindicates Mr. Huffington’s decades-long quest to clear his name. Despite the adversity he has faced, Mr. Huffington has forged a career path and serves as corporate social responsibility director for Holdings Management Company and VP/COO for the Kinetic Capital Community Foundation. He is also engaged in volunteer and charity work to better his community, focusing on assisting recently released individuals, and enacting criminal justice reform.
Click here to watch a recording of the 2021 press conference announcing John Huffington’s application for pardon.