Columbus Dispatch


Timothy Howard wasn’t there to accept the state’s peace offering for the 26 years he spent in prison.

The state Controlling Board yesterday unanimously approved Howard’s $2.5 million settlement, by far the largest in Ohio history for a wrongful incarceration. He should get a check in a week or so.

State Sen. Ray Miller, D-Columbus, a board member, said it wasn’t enough.

“There isn’t really any amount of money that could fully compensate him for the years that he was incarcerated.”

Miller grilled a representative from Attorney General Jim Petro’s office about what should be done to prevent wrongful prosecutions.

Paula L. Paoletti, who works with the Ohio Court of Claims, said the question would better be addressed by policymakers.

Howard, 52, of Columbus, will get the money as payback for half his life spent locked up for a 1976 East Side bank robbery and murder he didn’t commit.

Howard was released in 2003 based on evidence hidden or unavailable at his 1977 trial.

A Franklin County Common Pleas Court this year found Howard “actually innocent” of the crime, opening the door for the settlement.

It tops the $1.075 million paid this year to Clarence Elkins. The Summit County man was cleared when DNA testing showed another man killed Elkins’ mother-in-law in 1998.

Howard’s money will come in chunks: about $1.4 million to Howard and his attorneys (who will get one-third), plus nearly $1.1 million to be paid in monthly installments over 30 years.

James D. Owen, who represented Howard for the past nine years, said he didn’t know Howard’s plans for the money. He could not be reached.

Asked whether the case is an isolated incident of wrongful imprisonment, Owen said, “It happens more often than anyone would like to admit.”

Gary Lamar James, 53, the second Columbus man convicted of the bank robbery and murder, is scheduled to go to court in November seeking his own not-guilty verdict so he can file a financial claim.