A man who spent 16 years in jail for murder – before another man’s confession was uncovered in a Baltimore City police report – will be awarded $125,000 to settle his lawsuit.
The Board of Estimates is set to approve the cash settlement on Wednesday in return for the dismissal of Garreth Parks’ lawsuit against more than a dozen Baltimore officers and detectives.
According to documents on file with the spending board, Parks was 16 years old when he was stopped by police in July 1999, running out of an alley in the 5400 block of Nelson Avenue in Park Heights.
Parks told police he had just been robbed, but police suspected he was involved in a shooting in the alley that left 27-year-old Charles Hill dying and 35-year-old Anthony Burgess wounded.
After interviewing Burgess and other witnesses, police charged Parks with the crimes.
Prosecuted as an adult, he was convicted of second-degree murder in connection with Hill’s death, attempted second-degree murder for the wounding of Burgess and illegal use of a firearm. He was sentenced to 80 years in jail.
His conviction was subsequently upheld by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. A petition alleging that his attorney failed to provide an adequate defense was denied.
“Not to be released”
A dozen years later, Parks filed a public information request with the Baltimore City Circuit Court clerk’s office.
A police report found in the file included a statement from Burgess admitting that he had shot Hill.
A hand-written note was attached to the document: “Per Ms. Costley, this report is not to be released.” Cassandra L. Costley was the assistant state’s attorney who prosecuted the case.
Joseph R. Mueller, the detective who wrote the report, confirmed in a 2014 hearing that Burgess had made the confession. He also admitted that he had not disclosed the confession to the defense or during his testimony at the trial.
In March 2015, the state’s attorney’s office conceded that Parks might have been acquitted if his lawyer knew about the Burgess confession. A month later, Costley, who had left the state’s attorney’s office and become an orphan’s court judge in Washington County, died.
Prosecutors dismissed all charges against Parks in October 2015, and he was released after spending 16 of his 32 years in prison.
Three years later, Parks filed a federal lawsuit against 17 officers and “unknown employees of the Baltimore Police Department” who, he said, withheld the Burgess confession and fabricated evidence to implicate him in Hill’s murder.
The settlement will release the police department and the 17 officers from all litigation in the case.
Nearly all of the defendants have left or retired from the department.
For example, Mueller, the lead detective, retired not long after Parks’ conviction following 35 years on the force. He died last April at a Parkville nursing home.
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