City of Baltimore agrees to $9 million settlement in wrongful conviction case

May 2, 2018

The Board of Estimates approved the settlement to be paid to a man who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent 20 years in prison.  The settlement for James Owens is the largest from the city in an alleged police misconduct case. 

The money would come from Baltimore's regular budget. “I think that anybody who spends 21 years in jail---and has spent 21 years of their life in jail unfairly, deserves compensation,” said Mayor Catherine Pugh. “I don’t what amount I would put on anybody’s life for 21 years. I don’t know how we come to that settlement, but it is a settlement and that’s about as much as I can say.”

Owens was charged in the 1987 robbery, rape and murder of 24-year-old Collen Williar. Police found no physical evidence linking Owens to the crime, but charged him on the basis of a neighbor's testimony. That neighbor had said he found a knife outside of Williar's apartment and retrieved it on behalf of Owens. Owens was cleared by DNA evidence more than a decade ago.