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‘It’s My Name:’ Man Who Entered Alford Plea In ‘Memorial Day Murders’ Seeks Pardon

The announcement comes as retired Maryland State Attorney Joseph Cassilly was disbarred for misconduct. 

By Jax Miller
John Huffington Ropes And Gray Law Firm

Just weeks after a retired state attorney was disbarred for misconduct in a murder trial, a man who spent 32 years in prison for crimes he didn't seek is seeking a gubernatorial pardon.

John Huffington, 59, and the law firm Ropes & Gray announced that they’re seeking a pardon from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, according to a press conference attended by Oxygen.com. In 2017, Huffington entered an Alford Plea in exchange for time served for the 1981 double homicide dubbed ‘The Memorial Day Murders.’ By entering an Alford Plea, Huffington maintained his innocence while still acknowledging that the state had enough evidence to convict. It is still technically a guilty plea. 

John Huffington was released from prison in 2013.

“For 40 years, I have been sharing my truth publicly while facing the very harsh realities of being wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for crimes that I did not commit,” said Huffington. “By pardoning me, Governor Hogan can correct the injustices I have suffered and clear my name.”

Ropes and Gray have represented Huffington for more than 30 years.

“At the hands of our criminal justice system, John Huffington has suffered grave injustices since his teenage years for crimes he did not commit,” said Ropes and Gray partner Chong S. Park on Tuesday. “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.”

Huffington spent 32 years in prison, 10 of which were on death row, for murdering Diane Becker, 21, and Joseph Hudson, 30. Becker was stabbed 33 times and beaten to death with a vodka bottle in her camper. Her boyfriend, Hudson, was found shot to death a few blocks away.

Becker’s four-year-old son was asleep in the camper when Becker was killed.

Tuesday's announcement comes on the heels of retired Maryland State Attorney Joseph Casilly's disbarment after he lied about withholding evidence in the case.

"I'm disappointed, but the real answer is: Do I care? I don't give a damn," Cassilly responded to the decision handed down by the Maryland Court of Appeals. "Oh, whatever. I'm retired anyway."

After Huffington’s 1981 conviction, The Department of Justice found that the state’s key witness, FBI Agent Michael Malone, provided “faulty analysis and scientifically unsupportable testimony” in a separate wrongful conviction.

In 1999, Cassilly received notice from the Department of Justice but did not disclose their findings to Huffington’s counsel, according to Ropes and Gray. 

The FBI terminated Malone’s position in the FBI laboratory’s Hairs and Fibers Unit.

In 2001, Huffington requested DNA testing on the hair used against him in the trial. Cassilly sought the court’s permission to destroy the hair evidence, but the request was denied, according to Ropes and Gray. The DNA testing concluded that the hair from the crime scene did not belong to Huffington.

By 2017, the courts twice reversed Huffington’s conviction and granted him new trials in light of Malone’s testimony. But the conviction still follows Huffington throughout his life.

“It’s my name... it’s who you are,” Huffington said at the press conference. “I go through life, now, constantly having to explain myself… It’s not how I want to define my life.”

Now, Huffington hopes Governor Larry Hogan grants the pardon.

“I’m hopeful; anything can happen,” Huffington told Oxygen.com. “All I can do is keep fighting the same fight [I’ve been fighting] for 40 years... I’m going to keep on fighting until my name is clear.”

Requests to Governor Hogan’s office were not immediately returned to Oxygen.com.

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