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After 36 Years Behind Bars, MD Men Exonerated In Teen's Death

  • May 19, 2020
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BALTIMORE, MD — Three Maryland men who were arrested as teenagers and convicted of the 1983 shooting death of 14-year-old DeWitt Duckett were exonerated today after serving 36 years in prison. According to a report, state prosecutors asked a judge Monday to grant writs of actual innocence for Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart, who were arrested in connection with the crime on Thanksgiving Day 1983 and later convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

The three men were arrested in connection with the death of Duckett, who was attacked and shot at a Baltimore middle school for his Georgetown University jacket, the Washington Post reports. Chestnut and Watkins, who were 16 at the time, and Stewart, who was 17, attended another school but said during their trial they were at the middle school prior to the shooting visiting siblings and former teachers.

The three men were arrested and charged as adults with murder. Several months later, they were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The convictions were based onthe testimony of four teenage witnesses, who have since recanted, saying they were pressured by police to change their stories, WMAR in Baltimore reported.

Evidence was re-examined and witnesses interviewed again after Chestnut reached out to Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s Conviction Integrity Unit. Chestnut included new evidence he had uncovered last year that incriminated Michael Willis, the man authorities now say was the actual shooter.

“These three men were convicted, as children, because of police and prosecutorial misconduct. What the state, my office, did to them is wrong. There is no way we can ever repair the damage done to them. We can’t be scared of that and we must confront it,” Mosby said at a press conference following the judge’s decision. “I want to thank these men from the bottom of my heart for persevering for decades to prove their innocence. They deserve so much more than an apology. We owe them real compensation – and I plan to fight for it.”

Duckett, a ninth-grader at Harlem Park Junior High School at the time of his death, was shot inside the West Baltimore school. He collapsed in the cafeteria; his death was called the first homicide in a Baltimore public school, The Baltimore Sun reports.

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