Three Baltimore men to receive $8.7 million for wrongful convictions

Each of the exonerated to receive over $90K for each of the 36 years they were locked away

Three Baltimore men, who were exonerated after spending more than 36 years behind bars, will receive $8.7 million from Maryland for their unjust imprisonment.

Three Baltimore men, who were exonerated after spending more than 36 years behind bars, will receive $8.7 million from Maryland for their unjust imprisonment.

Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart entered the prison system as 16 and 17-year-old teenagers for a crime they did not commit. Their wrongful conviction forever changed the course of their lives.

READ MORE: Three Baltimore men have been exonerated after serving 36 years

Right before Thanksgiving of 2019, they received a writ of innocence in the death of a 14-year-old middle school student, DeWitt Duckett, who was killed over a Georgetown University basketball jacket.

The men have always maintained their innocence.

Tomorrow, Maryland’s Board of Public Works, which is chaired by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, will award the men $2.9 million each for their wrongful convictions for the 1983 murder of Duckett, The Baltimore Sun reports.

The state convicted Chestnut, Watkins, and Stewart based on witness testimony and a Georgetown jacket found in Chestnut’s room— even though his mom produced a receipt and a store clerk testified that Chestnut’s mom had purchased it. Further, the jacket had no blood on it or bullet residue. And like the case of the Central Park Five, the then-teenaged boys were questioned by police without a parent in the room.

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby accused the lead detective and prosecutor with misleading and coercing testimony from the witnesses, who were four students. The witnesses later recanted their testimony. Mosby said Baltimore prosecutors failed to follow up on interviews from students who pointed to another person as the killer.

“I’m delighted that these three men have been granted the compensation they deserve, but it’s awful that they had to go through a legal process to obtain this small measure of justice,” Mosby told The Baltimore Sun. “I’m asking the state legislature to pass the exoneree compensation bill so that this process becomes automatic and more humane.”

Maryland lawmakers are considering legislation that would require the Board of Public Works to pay wrongfully convicted prisoners within two months after receiving an order from an administrative law judge. The bill would require the Board of Public Works to devise a payment that is equal to the five-year average of Maryland’s median household income for each year the wrongfully convicted was incarcerated.

READ MORE: Black man released from prison after serving more than 40 years on death row for wrongful conviction

For example, Chestnut, Stewart, and Watkins each served more than 36 years in jail before they received their writs of actual innocence. They each will get $81,868 per year of imprisonment, which was the five-year average of the state’s median household income, plus $10,616 for mental health and financial counseling services, according to The Sun.

The men are required by the board to sign a release form agreeing that by accepting their payments, they will not sue the state. This does not prohibit them from suing the Baltimore Police Department, however.