After spending 36 years in prison for a crime they did not commit, three Baltimore men who were released last November are set to receive $2.9 million each.
Records show that Maryland’s Board of public works will vote on Wednesday to compensate the three wrongfully convicted men $81,868 for each year of their incarceration, totaling about $2.9 million each.
The sum is to be paid out over seven years.
Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart were arrested on Thanksgiving in 1983 and accused of killing 14-year-old Dewitt Duckett.
Thirty-six years after they were convicted, a judge in Baltimore cleared them and all charges against them dropped after authorities said they were wrongfully sentenced for the murder.
They were teenagers when they were sentenced to life in prison in 1984. Chestnut and Watkins were 16 at the time of their arrest and Stewart was 17, CNN reports. They are now in their early 50s and have since started experiencing adulthood on the outside for the first time.
A re-investigation earlier this year brought forth new evidence and testimony from witnesses that proved their innocence, reports WJZ CBS Baltimore.
The three men always maintained that they were innocent.
“I’ve been always dreaming of this day, dreaming of this day,” Chestnut said after their release last November.
“We outside them walls but on the inside I hate to put it like this but we went through hell,” Watkins said.
“I sat on my bunk when I got the information and I cried. I didn’t know how to stop crying until a friend of mine said man your journey is coming to an end, but it’s not. My journey is just beginning because I have to learn how to live right now.” Stewart added.
Their case was reopened last year by the office of Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby after Chestnut sent a letter to the Conviction Integrity Unit.
According to the Washington Post, Chestnut included exculpatory evidence he uncovered in 2018. The Baltimore prosecutor’s office subsequently found errors in the investigation during examinations.
Reports said the new review showed that a different student, who was 18 at the time of the incident, was the shooter. He was, however, 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 guilt of the trio. Meanwhile, police records had statements that involved the 18-year-old and also showed trial witnesses could not identify the teenagers in photo lineups.
“These three men were convicted, as children, because of police and prosecutorial misconduct,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Mosby said.
“What the state, my office, did to them is wrong,” Mosby said. “They deserve so much more than an apology. We owe them real compensation – and I plan to fight for it.”
In a statement, the state’s attorney 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”.
Meanwhile, their expected compensation does not exclude them from suing the city or state in a civil case, reports say.
Mosby, whose office reinvestigated the case, said she is happy to know of the payout.
“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. I’m asking the state legislature to pass the exoneree compensation bill so that this process becomes automatic and more humane.”