Columbus Dispatch

Published in The Columbus Dispatch

More than 30 years after his conviction for bank robbery and murder, Gary Lamar James late yesterday was officially declared “wrongfully convicted.”

Common Pleas Judge David Cain signed an order formalizing an agreement between Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and James D. Owen, one of James’ attorneys.

The order means James, 53, who was scheduled to begin what amounted to a civil murder trial April 30, will go instead before the Ohio Court of Claims. He will file a claim for financial compensation for 26 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, the 1976 East Side slaying of Berne Davis.

“This means he’s entitled to the money,” Owen said. “Now it’s just a question of how much.”

Timothy Howard, James’ childhood friend who also was wrongfully convicted on the same charges, last year received a record $2.5 million settlement, the largest in state history. Howard died in March.

Owen said James is entitled to at least $1.1 million, plus an amount for lost wages and attorney fees, which will consume about one-third of the settlement.

Owen said James “was relieved.”

Nicholas A. Soulas, head of the civil division in O’Brien’s office, met with Owen yesterday and told him they would not proceed with the trial.

Owen said O’Brien “did the right thing.”

Owen said he will file the financial claim with the Court of Claims as soon as today.