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State gives $2.25M to man wrongfully convicted of murder

Updated August 11, 2020 - 6:00 pm

CARSON CITY — A state board on Tuesday approved more than $2.2 million in damages for a Las Vegas man who spent more than two decades behind bars after he was wrongfully convicted of a 1994 murder.

DeMarlo Berry became the first person in the state to receive a certificate of innocence last month under a law passed in 2019 that allows for people wrongfully convicted in Nevada to receive compensation from the state for their time in prison.

The state Board of Examiners, made up of Gov. Steve Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, on Tuesday unanimously approved $2.25 million in compensation for Berry, plus $25,000 to cover Berry’s attorney fees.

Berry testified in favor of the legislation, Assembly Bill 267, during the 2019 Legislature alongside Ford.

“I’ve been looking forward to voting in favor of this for a long time now,” Ford said during Tuesday’s meeting ahead of the vote.

“I’m so proud of this state for stepping up and doing the right thing,” Ford added.

Berry was convicted in the 1994 murder of Charles Burke, and he spent 22 years in prison before that conviction was overturned in 2017 after another man serving a life sentence in California for a different murder confessed to killing Burke.

Berry’s case was the first investigated by the Clark County district attorney’s conviction review unit, which was established in 2016. Prosecutors previously fought Berry’s claims of innocence but eventually reversed course and decided to look into new evidence that defense lawyers brought to the court’s attention. Ford, then the state Senate majority leader, had lobbied for the creation of the unit after seeing the impact of a similar review unit in his hometown of Dallas.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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