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21 Oct 2023

NextImg:Baltimore to pay $48 million to 3 men wrongfully convicted for murder and imprisoned for 36 years | CNN

CNN  — 

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.

Mary Stewart, left, walks with her son, Andrew Stewart and her daughter, Ulonda Stewart, after his release.

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.

The Board of Estimates on Wednesday approved the lawsuit settlement 5-0.

The three men had no comment, one of their attorneys told CNN on Friday.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said in a statement read at the meeting that settlements like it “speak to gross injustices” against residents and said the families involved deserve compensation.

“Our city is in a position where in 2023 we are literally paying for the misconduct of (Baltimore Police Department) officers decades in the past,” Scott said. “This is just part of the price our city must pay to right the wrongs of this terrible history.”

In a statement published on, City Council President Nick Mosby, who is also chair of the Board of Estimates, said “our hearts are with Alfred Chestnut, Andrew Stewart, Ransom Watkins and their families.”

“Nothing in this world can make up for the mental and emotional trauma that has been put on these innocent men and their families. No amount of compensation can right the wrongs of 36 years of turmoil and the residual effects on these men, their families, and communities.”