Three Maryland Men Wrongfully Incarcerated For Almost 40 Years Expected To Each Receive Nearly $3 Million Payout
The three men were wrongly incarcerated for the killing of a 14-year-old in the 80s.
March 04, 2020 at 1:37 am
Three men who were wrongly incarcerated as teens for the death of a 14-year-old could possibly receive nearly $3 million from the state of Maryland as compensation to erroneously confined individuals.
The Board of Public Work is scheduled to vote on the supplemental items during a Wednesday meeting, according to the agenda.
Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart were only 16 years old when they went on trial in 1983 for the death of DeWitt Duckett after being accused of conspiring to rob him of a Georgetown University starter jacket, The Washington Post reports.
The young men decided to skip school and return to their junior high school where Duckett was shot and killed in the hallway. According to The Post, witnesses said they saw Michael Willis, an 18-year-old, run from the scene and toss a handgun. Willis allegedly was seen in a similar jacket the same night.
Despite witness statements and evidence pointing to another suspect, Baltimore police directed their efforts toward the three boys. When asked about the evidence against the other suspect by the defense attorney, the Baltimore prosecutor allegedly lied and said there was no such thing.
While in prison, Chestnut, determined to uncover the truth, discovered public records pointing to his innocence and sent them to Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby last year.
Nearly four decades since they were jailed, Mosby's Conviction Integrity Unit worked to free the men.
Now the topic of their compensation is up for discussion. Maryland doesn't have a state requirement for compensation of wrongly convicted individuals. Defendants were instead allowed to petition to receive "a reasonable amount," which the Board of Public Works never granted.
Yet, a bill is in the works in the state general assembly that would force the board to pay the individuals Maryland's median household income over the past five years which is $81,868. That number is then multiplied by the number of years they were in prison. For the three men that number is 36, totaling roughly $2.9 million.
Maryland would join 35 other states in passing a law allowing exonerees to be compensated. According to the Innocence Project, Florida, New Jersey and California pay at least $50,000 for each year of incarceration.
The three men, now 52 years old, will receive their total compensation over the next five years if approved.
Payment received from the state by Chestnut, Watkins and Stewart will not include any lawsuits the men may wish to file against the state and city.
Ahead of the vote on Wednesday, Mosby said she is "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,” she added. “The system failed them. They should have never had to see the inside of a jail cell.”