Three Baltimore men have had their murder convictions overturned after spending some 30 years behind bars. Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart were all released from prison Monday after receiving an apology from Circuit Court Judge Charles Peters on behalf of the criminal justice system that has caused them such heartache.
“On the inside, I hate to put it like this, but we went through hell," Watkins said as he was mobbed by his family. “This is the day that the Lord has made. He has set the captives free ... my journey is just beginning.”
Watkins' sister, Dollie Boyd, said she had been pleading with God to let justice prevail and for her brother to be freed. "I just prayed to the Lord every day to bring my brother home. That's all I ever wanted,” she said, according to USA Today.
Chestnut said he would be spending a period of time adjusting to life outside the four walls of his prison cell. "It's a lot of guys that I left behind, that are in the same situation that I'm in," he explained, as reported by CNN. "They need a voice. I had an opportunity, by the grace of God, to have someone who heard me."
The trio of men were originally arrested on Thanksgiving Day in 1983 after 14-year-old DeWitt Duckett was shot in the neck. Despite being sentenced to life for the killing, last year, the case was reopened after it was discovered that prosecutors had hidden evidence which could have proved the group’s innocence.
The State's Attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby, who was involved in their acquittal, said that the exonerations should not be celebrated as a victory.
“It's a tragedy,” she told CNN. “And we need to own up to our responsibility for it … there's no way we can repair the damage to these men, when 36 years of their life were stolen from them."
Mosby added that she will be fighting for compensation for the acquitted men – something that she hopes will ease the grievous injustice of having so many years taken away from them.
"Police corruption and prosecutorial misconduct have cost Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart 36 stolen years," Mosby said. "They deserve support and compensation to start over. I will fight for it."
Last month, Maryland approved compensatory payouts to the sum of $9 million for a group of five men who were wrongly convicted and imprisoned for 120 years between them.
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