Dante Ricardo Boyd—“Rick” to his family and friends—was a 23-year-old father of four with most of his life still in front of him when he was convicted in DC Superior Court in May 1998 for the gang-related murder of 12-year-old Darryl Hall. Rick’s involvement in gang life was practically nonexistent, despite growing up in a violent neighborhood in Southeast DC. Nevertheless, two adolescent eyewitnesses and co-defendants who have since recanted identified him as one of four people responsible for the 1997 crime. Other witnesses insisted at trial that Rick was not involved in the murder, and several even testified that there were only three – not four – assailants at the crime scene.
Despite these weaknesses in the government’s case—and later findings by the DC Court of Appeals that the government was guilty of serious but “non-material” Brady violations in his case—Rick was convicted and sentenced to 40 years to life.
In the face of both an unjust conviction and the likelihood of decades in federal prison, Rick refused to give up hope and did the best he could to honor the wishes of his close-knit family—particularly his mother—by building a life for himself within prison walls. MAIP accepted Rick’s case on in 2015 and has worked since then to ensure his freedom. Proving innocence in court is a long road, but the passage of the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (IRAA) in 2016 and the Second Look Act in 2021 gave Rick new options for going home.
Teaming up with Venable LLP and a litigation team featuring Moxila Upadhayaya, Kirsten Bickelman, and Michael Munoz, and led by Venable partner and MAIP board member Seth Rosenthal, MAIP served as co-counsel in Rick’s October 12, 2022, Second Look Act hearing before Judge Milton Lee. In that hearing, Venable and MAIP showed the court just how hard Rick had worked to become a mature, responsible, productive adult – exactly the sort of person the new law was designed for.
After nearly 25 years in high-security prisons reserved for violent offenders, Rick’s disciplinary record was nearly spotless. He became known as a mentor to other prisoners, someone who could be trusted to support them, encourage them, and help defuse potentially volatile conflicts within the prison walls. The victim’s father and brother even expressed their support for Rick’s release, based on compelling evidence of innocence and Rick’s good character. Finally, Rick had a robust re-entry plan and the unwavering support of his family—including his now-adult children, who have been forced to get to know their father for more than two decades through letters and phone calls.
In the face of such compelling evidence, Judge Lee granted Rick’s petition, sentencing him to time served under IRAA and allowing him to begin the long process of rebuilding his life as a free man. Sadly, it is a life that continues without the support and presence of Rick’s mother, Elsie, who passed away after a long illness only months before Rick’s hearing – with Rick barred by the Bureau of Prisons from attending her funeral.
Now that Rick is home with his family, MAIP and Venable will continue to fight for his exoneration by pursuing relief under the Innocence Protection Act. The evidence of his innocence is overwhelming. Two co-defendants who implicated Rick at trial have since recanted in their own IRAA petitions, telling the court that Rick had no involvement in Darryl Hall’s abduction and murder; at least one thought his plea deal with the government depended on his testimony against Rick. Similarly, the victim’s then-15-year-old brother, who also testified against Rick at trial, has since said unequivocally that he never saw Rick on the day of the crime and that he was pressured by the police to implicate Rick.
Finally, the trial prosecutor advocated in a letter for Rick’s release, saying that Rick’s continued incarceration was “unconscionable” compared to his “far more culpable” co-defendants, who had already been released under IRAA, and that there “is a very good possibility, if not a likelihood, that Mr. Boyd is completely innocent,” while expressing reservations about having prosecuted his case at all.
Thanks to his incredible character, supportive family, and refusal to give up hope, Rick Boyd is now home with that family. While he adjusts to his newfound freedom, his team at Venable and MAIP will continue to fight to fully clear his name. Rick is MAIP’s 43rd freed client.