Although the humiliation of living with a wrongful "guilty" label on his head can't be entirely undone, Don Harman is happy he has been reinstated as an investigator with Salt Lake County.
In addition to receiving $77,500 inback pay, Harman will return to a comparable investigation job with the Salt Lake County attorney's office on Monday.
"Knowing you're innocent all the time is like living under a box. You can tell people you're innocent but the public believes anyone convicted must really be guilty," Harman said.
"Returning to my job and being acquitted by the appellate court is like coming out from under the box. I now feel I can stand on that box and shout, `I'm innocent. I hope this never happens to anyone else.' "
Harman was fired two years ago after he and investigator Ralph Tolman were convicted on county grand jury indictments that accused them of conspiracy to cover up a report that could have made the county liable for a 1983 $2 million fire in a Murray medical office building.
On Jan. 10, the Utah Court of Appeals overturned Harman's conviction, stating the prosecution failed to present adequate evidence to show that Harman committed a crime. Tolman's appeal remains under consideration.
Blaming the "corrupt and secretive " grand jury system for his wrongful conviction, Harman is committed to pursue his crusade to abolish the system.
The flaws in the system resulted in irreparable damage to Harman's reputation and exorbitant expense to the county, he said.
The county is negotiating with Harman's attorney, Ed Brass, who is asking approximately $150,000 for representing Harman during the past 21/2 years.
Brass commends Salt Lake County Attorney Dave Yocom and his assistant, Lonnie DeLand, for their fairness and compassion in restoring Harman's dignity. "This is an unfortunate situation that Yocom inherited. Yocom and Johnson acted decisively to put an end to a situation that could have dragged into an ugly court battle. They did the moral and right thing."
Because Harman had been convicted of a misdemeanor when he was fired, the law is unclear whether the county had an obligation to reinstate Harman.
"They may have been able to legally leave him on the street without a job. Or, they may have ended up not only paying him back pay and reinstating his job, but paying a large amount in damages for his lost civil rights. Yocom and Johnson chose the moral and compassionate option," Brass said.
Harman will be returning to an office where several of his colleagues testified against him. "Professionalism will prevail. You don't have to love all your colleagues to work with them," he said.
It was important to Harman to return to his job as an investigator because it is his area of expertise. "I was a dedicated merit employee and didn't have a blemish on my record. It was imperative for me to feel that the county wanted to restore my reputation and the suffering I've undergone as much as they could. I believe Yocom and Johnson have done that."