Three men were finally set free on Monday after spending nearly 36 years in a Maryland prison for a murder they did not commit.
Alfred Chestnut and Ransom Watkins were only 16 years old and Andrew Stewart was 17 when they were charged with first-degree murder in the killing of a 14-year-old boy in November 1983.
With officials saying it was the first time that a student had been fatally shot at a Baltimore public school, Duckett’s death received lots of media attention.
A judge reopened and reviewed the case after Chestnut sent a letter to Baltimore’s Conviction Integrity Unit containing new evidence that was withheld from his attorney, according to CNN; they were cleared and subsequently freed.
As teenagers, Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart were wrongfully convicted. Now, they’ve finally been exonerated.
“Today isn’t a victory,” an official says. “It’s a tragedy that these three men had 36 years of their life stolen from them.”https://t.co/gpSM9OfZQR
— NPR (@NPR) November 26, 2019
According to The Sun, the exculpatory evidence included interviews with students who identified Duckett’s killer as another man, who died 17 years ago.
Prosecutors now acknowledge that the Georgetown jacket found in Chestnut’s closet wasn’t Duckett’s, but was a gift from his mother.
“I don’t think that today is a victory, it’s a tragedy,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said to the three men Friday. “And we need to own up to our responsibility for it.”
“There’s no way we can repair the damage to these men, when 36 years of their life were stolen from them,” she said.
In a news conference Monday, Mosby said that Chestnut was denied parole partly because he would not confess that he was guilty of Duckett’s death.
Mosby announced plans for laws that would institute a system to compensate people who have been falsely convicted of a crime, since there is no such system in the state of Maryland.
She has helped launch a program called Resurrection After Exoneration, which will provide medical services and guidance to help recently vindicated people reintegrate into society.
In addition, Mosby plans to advocate for a law that would formally require a parent to be present if police question a minor.
“You were all arrested on Thanksgiving 1983,” Mosby told the men Friday, according to CNN. “Now you are free to spend the holidays with your loved ones for the first time in 36 years.”
Chestnut and Stewart’s lawyers said they are planning to spend Thanksgiving with their families. Watkins’ lawyer said he would be spending the holiday with loved ones since most of his immediate family has died while he was incarcerated.
“That was hell,” Chestnut said regarding his time in jail. “That was miserable.”
Chestnut told CNN that wasn’t just seeking justice for himself.
“It’s a lot of guys that I left behind, that are in the same situation that I’m in,” he said. “They need a voice. I had an opportunity, by the grace of God, to have someone who heard me.”
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