BALTIMORE – AFTER spending 36 years in prison for crime they did not commit, three American men have been freed.
Alfred Chestnut, Andrew Stewart and Ransom Watkins were sentenced to life in 1984 for killing a 14-year-old boy in 1983.
They were freed in Baltimore on Monday after a judge cleared their convictions following a review of their case, the BBC is reporting.
The case was reopened this year after Chestnut sent a letter to Baltimore’s Conviction Integrity Unit with evidence he had uncovered last year.
Chestnut, Stewart and Watkins were arrested as teenagers in November 1983 following the death of DeWitt Duckett, who was shot in the neck on his way to class at a Baltimore junior high school and had his Georgetown University jacket stolen.
DeWitt’s death received widespread press coverage. It was the first fatal shooting of a student in a Baltimore public school.
“These three men were convicted, as children, because of police and prosecutorial misconduct,” Baltimore state attorney Marilyn Mosby said after the men were released.
In a statement, her office said “detectives targeted the three men, all 16-year-old black boys, using coaching and coercion of other teenage witnesses to make their case.”
According to the BBC, prosecutors said during the initial investigation police ignored and withheld reports from multiple witnesses identifying another person as the killer.
Also police did not report that trial witnesses failed to identify the three teenagers in photo line-ups.
Mosby said all trial witness have now recanted evidence.
“I don’t think that today is a victory, it’s a tragedy. And we need to own up to our responsibility for it,” she said.
The other suspect died in 2002.