3 Maryland Men Exonerated After 36 Years In Prison

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Andrew Stewart, from left, Alfred Chestnut, and Ransom Watkins speak Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Baltimore, Md. The three men had been incarcerated for 36 years in Maryland were exonerated Monday in the slaying of a Baltimore teenager after a review of their case. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

BALTIMORE (AP) — Three men incarcerated for 36 years in Maryland were exonerated Monday in the slaying of a Baltimore teenager after a review of their case.

Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart were released from custody hours after a judge cleared their convictions and prosecutors dropped the charges. They were teenagers when they were sentenced to life in prison in 1984.

“On behalf of the criminal justice system, and I’m sure this means very little to you gentlemen, I’m going to apologize,” Circuit Court Judge Charles Peters told the men, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Chestnut, Watkins and Stewart were arrested on November 1983 for the slaying of 14-year-old DeWitt Duckett. The teenager was accosted over his Georgetown jacket and shot in the neck while walking to class at a Baltimore school.

The case was reopened earlier this year by the office of Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby after Chestnut sent a letter to the Conviction Integrity Unit. The Washington Post reported Chestnut included exculpatory evidence he uncovered last year.

Prosecutors now say police reports show multiple witnesses told police that that suspect, who was 18 at the time of the crime, was the shooter. One student saw him flee the scene and dump a gun as police arrived at Harlem Park Junior High School, but authorities at the time focused their investigation on the trio.

The new suspect was shot to death in 2002.

An assistant prosecutor working on the case told the court in 1984 that the state did not have any reports that would have raised doubts about the defendants’ guilt even though police records had statements involving the 18-year-old and also showed trial witnesses had failed to identify the teenagers in photo lineups. A judge sealed those documents, but Chestnut obtained them through a public records request last year.

“Everyone involved in this case — school officials, police, prosecutors, jurors, the media, and the community — rushed to judgment and allowed their tunnel vision to obscure obvious problems with the evidence,” said Shawn Armbrust, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, which represents Watkins. Armbrust added that “this case should be a lesson to everyone that the search for quick answers can lead to tragic results.

Andrew Stewart joins his mother Mary, left, and his sister, Ulonda, right, after his release. Stewart was one of three men incarcerated for 36 years in Maryland who were exonerated Monday in the slaying of a Baltimore teenager after a review of their case. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)
Alfred Chestnut hugs his mother Sarah after his release Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Baltimore. Chestnut was one of three men incarcerated for 36 years in Maryland who were exonerated Monday in the slaying of a Baltimore teenager after a review of their case. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

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15 COMMENTS

    • It depends for who . Years ago it’s true they went after blacks unlawfully. I think nowadays it’s so scrutinized that it will be hard to find a modern day wrongful conviction for people of color .
      But where justice is perverted is the system today whereby you go after the rich white boy to advance your career . Like rubashkin. And same is true for your political oppenent and Thier whole family and associates. These laws are also easy to twist and turn . Tax laws can be interpreted in many ways . And it’s easy for a defendant who has a complex business to slip and violate some random unknown code or clause . Of course it looks good bec the prosecutor can say the guy broke 50 laws since they are so many of them . That’s modern day corruption .

      • When u was in NYU, our criminal law class looked at the stats on the death penalty and it was definitely being applied most often for black on white crime followed by black on black crime. That was in 1996
        I would be very interested in seeing updated numbers. One of my classmates is now a big wheel on the Innocence Project.

        • Please show me the modern day numbers.

          I don’t believe you were in law school. But even if you were. These studies are bias and skewed. Its nonsense. Yes a few cases here and there but mostly it was blacks who unfortanlety do have a higher rate of violence than whites. Thats just who they are.

          • I said I would like to see the numbers. Meaning I don’t have them.

            NYU School of Law Class of 1998. Criminal law professor was Paul Chevigny. Torts, Eleanor Fox. Contracts, Christopher Eisgruber who left to become Provost of Princeton. Civil Procedure, Andreas Lowenfeld now deceased. Lawyering as legal writing is called there was Kennedy (can’t remember first name).

            Evidence teacher second year where I learned about hearsay was Ron Noble who became the first American head of Interpol.

          • And the 1996 numbers were what they were. Statistics. They told the story. Don’t have the present day numbers which is why I said I would like to see them.

  1. “…I think nowadays it’s so scrutinized that it will be hard to find a modern day wrongful conviction for people of color…”

    You have no basis on which to make such a preposterous assertion, except for your own prejudice; and everyone who works in corrections know otherwise.

    YONI

    • Oh i forgot we have a panel of esteem law professionals like Yoni and Phineas.

      I have a very strong basis for my assertion. Open your eyes and look around. In 1980’s there was no such thing as blacks getting let of prison for wrongful convictions. Now you see there is. You hear it on the news and in WNYC. You can no longer just freely arrest blacks. Even the culture of stop and frisk is over. Its blantely obvious. Sorry it doesn’t conform with your PC fake news nonsense.

      On the other hand we see too many whites trageted for crimes that are witch hunts. Since 2008 there is a call to go after greedy wall st bankers as if they commited crimes bec they made money while you lost money. Its all there.

      The nonsense metoo movement is the same stupidty. Even the Epstien case outlines something very perverted. Te guy did the crime 20 years ago. What took so long? The answer is oh now Trump is preisdent so now its in style to hunt and go after the rich white trump boys. Not saying Epstien didn’t deserve it but the timing is very corrput and agenda driven

      • It’s easy to refute an ignorant comment. You present a difficult problem because it’s a torrent of misinformation informed by nothing.

        Also, I never said I was an esteemed legal professional. I am in-house counsel to a company and by NYU standards, am nothing for the school to brag about.

    • At least I don’t lie and or act immature like you yoni. I acknowledge not being an immature silly baby like you. I don’t type that I won’t comment on VIN then go ahead and write my name backwards. For a mature seasoned intelligent law professional like yourself es pas nisht. (unless you are not who we think you are). And neither does spamming pas.

      • It’s amazing. I actually did the course work. Took a sentencing seminar from federal Judge Gleason who is a conservative and now in private practice. After all of that research, I still don’t pretend to know a 10th of the things Archy is so certain of.

        Bruce Lee said we learn to discover the root of our ignorance. Archy clearly hasn’t arrived at that stage.

  2. From a 2017 study by the National Registry of Exonerations.
    http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Documents/Race_and_Wrongful_Convictions.pdf

    From a 2017 Northeastern University Study of Louisiana

    Tim Lyman of The Institute for Security and Public Policy at Northeastern’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, concluded that the “systemic” inequality actually begins with prosecutors’ initial charging decisions. In the administration of the death penalty in that state—where the odds that African Americans who kill whites will receive the death sentence are 11 times greater than for a “black-on-black” homicide

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