Inmate Cleared by DNA Barred From DC

Friday, February 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A man cleared by DNA evidence of a crime that landed him on death row will not be allowed to go to Washington, D.C., to meet with legislators and reporters after he is released.

Earl Washington Jr., 40, will be released from prison Monday but still has six months of parole to serve on an unrelated assault conviction, James R. Camanche, assistant director of the state Department of Corrections, said this week.

``It is not now, nor has it ever been our practice to let recently released inmates travel out of state,'' Camanche wrote Rep. Robert C. Scott, D-Va, who invited Washington to his office to discuss wrongful convictions. Washington must go straight to Virginia Beach, where his attorneys have arranged for him to live in a group home.

``Adjustment to the community and successful completion of parole is our main goal for Mr. Washington,'' Camanche wrote.

Washington, who is mentally retarded, was pardoned by Gov. James Gilmore in October after sophisticated DNA tests found no trace of Washington at the scene of the crime. His death sentence had been reduced to life in 1994 because early DNA tests cast doubt on his guilt.

Washington's supporters said they think Virginia officials are hoping to limit public attention to the case and are embarrassed the state nearly executed an innocent man.

``I'm astonished,'' said Barry Weinstein, an attorney for Washington. ``You're talking about a couple of hours in Washington, D.C. He would be transported by me, his attorney.''

``It's not like asking Earl to go to Arizona for a weekend. It was a day trip to D.C.''

In 1985, Washington came within nine days of being executed in the electric chair for the 1982 rape and murder of Rebecca Lynn Williams, 19.

Last summer, Gilmore ordered the DNA tests that led to his pardon. Gilmore's decision left Washington still serving a 30-year sentence for attacking a neighbor, a crime Washington admits he committed.

Good behavior earned him enough credit that he becomes eligible for mandatory release on Monday.