Baltimore has agreed to pay $48 million to three men who were wrongfully convicted of murder as teenagers and spent 36 years in prison.
“These are men who went to jail as teenagers and came out as young grandfathers in their 50s,” Baltimore Police Department chief legal counsel Justin Conroy told the city’s Board of Estimates before the panel approved the payment on Wednesday.
Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart were 16 when they were arrested on Thanksgiving Day 1983, according to the federal lawsuit they filed after being freed. They were charged in the murder of DeWitt Duckett, 14, allegedly killed for his jacket in school. They were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
But they were declared innocent decades later, after Chestnut filed a public records request. He discovered new evidence that was kept from his attorneys during trial and contacted Baltimore’s Conviction Integrity Unit, which was reviewing old convictions.
Investigators “ignored eyewitness evidence and physical evidence that contradicted their chosen narrative, including evidence pointing to a different suspect. Instead, they shaped the evidence to implicate Plaintiffs — including by coercing false testimony from young witnesses,” the trio’s 2020 lawsuit said.
A “John Doe” who actually killed DeWitt and fled the school with his jacket had died, the suit said.
“On November 25, 2019, three days before Thanksgiving Day, a judge granted the writ of actual innocence (jointly filed by Plaintiffs and the State of Maryland) and ordered their immediate release,” the suit said.
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby at the time said there was “intentional concealment and misrepresentation of the exculpatory evidence, evidence that would have showed that it was someone else other than these defendants.”
She apologized to the men when they were released and vowed to work for reforms for people wrongly convicted.