I free innocent people, but the cases do not make the news. Why? Because I focus on getting them OUT before they die in prison – Commutation/Clemency, which takes about 2 years, start to finish. AND I SUCCEED. Once out, THEN they can prove their innocence! 🙂
DO WHAT WORKS! Look at these three guys; they were filing legal shit for 36 years. 36 YEARS! This was another case of police misconduct, one of the leading causes of these injustices.
The conviction of innocent people is the most dramatic example of how fucked up the system is. Thousands of innocent people sit behind bars in America! The problem is so bad that many prosecutors have a Unit or Department to review claims of innocence. Philadelphia’s unit has exonerated 10 murder defendants since last year. That’s just one city! It’s outrageous.
Excerpts from the Article:
In the hallway of his Baltimore middle school one afternoon in November 1983, DeWitt Duckett, 14, was shot and killed for his Georgetown University jacket. The attack was shocking — the first killing in a Baltimore city school. And the pressure to solve the case was intense.
Early on Thanksgiving Day that year, police arrested three teenagers who were eventually convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. On Monday, 36 years after they were incarcerated, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Charles J. Peters declared them innocent.
“On behalf of the criminal justice system, and I’m sure this means very little to you, I’m going to apologize,” Peters told them. “We’re adjourned.” The packed courtroom erupted in applause, and family members began crying and hugging.
The extraordinary exonerations were set in motion through the perseverance of one of the defendants, Alfred Chestnut, now 52, who never stopped pushing for a review of the case. This spring his claim was picked up by the Baltimore City state’s attorney’s office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, which uncovered a flawed case that prosecutors now say encouraged false witness testimony and ignored evidence of another assailant.
On Monday at 5:15 p.m., Chestnut and his childhood friends Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart walked out of the courthouse onto North Calvert Street as free men, into the arms of weeping mothers and sisters and fiancees who doubted they would see this day. “This is overwhelming,” said Chestnut, surrounded by cameras, lawyers and family. “I always dreamed of this. My mom, this is what she’s been holding on to forever. To see her son come home.”
The exonerations of Chestnut, Watkins and Stewart are the seventh, eighth and ninth enabled by Mosby’s Conviction Integrity Unit since she took office in 2015. Mosby visited each man in prison on Friday to give them the news she was asking for their freedom, a moment she called “surreal, incredibly powerful.” She said she told the men: “I’m sorry. The system failed them. They should have never had to see the inside of a jail cell. We will do everything in our power not only to release them, but to support them as they re-acclimate into society.”
Police reports produced soon after the killing revealed that numerous witnesses had told Baltimore investigators that Michael Willis, then 18, was the shooter, prosecutors now say. One student identified him immediately, one saw him run and discard a handgun as police pulled up to Harlem Park Junior High School, one heard him confess to the shooting, and one saw him wearing a Georgetown jacket that night.
Defense attorneys pressed for evidence that cast doubt on their clients’ guilt. In 1984, then-Assistant State’s Attorney Jonathan Shoup told the court the state had no such reports, despite the fact there were police documents showing that the trial witnesses had twice failed to identify the three defendants in photo lineups as well as statements implicating Willis. A judge sealed the reports. Then, when Chestnut made a public records request to the Maryland attorney general last year, the office turned them over.
Mosby said the case raised a number of problems she intends to address. The teen witnesses were repeatedly questioned without their parents present, she said, and they felt pressured to falsely identify Chestnut, Watkins and Stewart. Mosby is seeking laws to prohibit such questioning by police without a parent, guardian or lawyer.
Maryland also has no working system to compensate exonerees even though such payments are allowed by state law; the government for years has lagged behind other states in making such payments. After months of pressure from advocates and dozens of lawmakers, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and the Maryland Board of Public Works recently initiated a process to pay $9 million to five exonerees who collectively served more than 120 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. Mosby said she will lobby for a formalized compensation process for all exonerees. The three men in this case declined to comment on whether they would seek money for their wrongful convictions.
And Mosby said there is no support system for those who walk out of prison after years or decades inside. She has created a Resurrection After Exoneration program to connect exonerees with mental and physical health services, education, housing and job opportunities. “I think it’s important and incumbent on us,” Mosby said, “as the system that has wronged them, to be able to take accountability. We’re excited to show that we’re going to support them.”
Mosby’s Conviction Integrity Unit worked closely with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, which Executive Director Shawn Armbrust said had acquired a federal grant allowing the prosecutors to hire a full-time investigator who helped track down witnesses in this case. She said actual-innocence cases where prosecutors work together with defense attorneys typically take about a year, and when the cases are contested they take more than seven years.
When Mosby’s office realized there was a possibility of actual innocence, they arranged for the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and other lawyers to represent the men. The Maryland Office of the Public Defender and the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic represented Chestnut, the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and Christopher Nieto represented Watkins, and Booth Ripke and Rachel Wilson represented Stewart.
About 50 prosecutors across the country have launched Conviction Integrity Units to review old cases. Philadelphia’s unit has exonerated 10 murder defendants since last year. Armbrust said the teen defendants in this case “would never have gotten out without a Conviction Integrity Unit. Nobody could believe multiple witnesses would lie about the same event. You just have to wonder about how many cases there are in places where prosecutors aren’t willing to take a serious look at claims of innocence.”
The main players in the conviction of the three men are gone from the justice system. Kincaid, who was featured in the book “Homicide” by David Simon, retired from the Baltimore police in 1990. He said he did not coerce the witnesses to incriminate the three defendants. “No. Come on, no. Hell no,” Kincaid said.
All three defendants always maintained their innocence, and Watkins’s insistence that he was not involved in the killing was captured by Simon while Simon was trailing Kincaid at the Maryland Penitentiary in July 1988.
“You did it,” Kincaid shot back. “The hell I did,” Watkins told him. “You lied then and you lyin’ now.”
“At 16 years old, they threw me in a prison among a bunch of animals,” Watkins, now 52, said in a phone interview Sunday. “The things I had to go through, it was torture. There’s no other way to describe it.”
Stewart, now 53, said his arrest and conviction destroyed his life, and many of his family members died while he was in prison. But after two decades behind bars, he came to accept “the significance of faith and the value of God.” He has been teaching Bible class in prison, and said one day in class he realized, “If this is where God wants me to rest my head for the rest of my life, this is where I’m going to serve Jesus Christ for the rest of my life,” and he was resigned to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Chestnut, Watkins and Stewart had virtually no experience with the law on Nov. 18, 1983, and teachers who saw them in Harlem Park Junior High School that day described them “as silly and immature, not threatening,” said Lauren Lipscomb, the head of the Conviction Integrity Unit. The teens never denied being in the school and said they goofed around at their friends’ houses long into the afternoon after being kicked out of the school about 12:45 p.m.
Duckett was headed to lunch with two friends when someone came up and demanded his Georgetown Starter jacket at 1:15 p.m. His two friends ran. As Duckett was struggling to get the jacket off, he was shot. He ran to the cafeteria and collapsed, conscious but unable to speak, and died two hours later.
“Two individuals called in saying Michael Willis was the shooter,” Lipscomb said. One witness picked Willis out of a photo array as the shooter. Another student saw Willis run from the school and throw away a handgun. The reports on all of this were not given to the defense by the prosecutor Shoup. “You cannot make this up,” Lipscomb said. “It is just outrageous.”
Detective Kincaid showed photos of Chestnut, Watkins and Stewart to three witnesses. Twice, all three witnesses did not identify any of them, the newly released reports show. But the witnesses were repeatedly pulled from school over subsequent months and coached to identify the three teens, Lipscomb said. Kincaid flatly denied this. At trial, with the defense unaware they had not identified the teens initially, their testimony was devastating. All three have now recanted their testimony, Lipscomb said.
“The detective didn’t care,” Watkins said. “When we told the truth, he didn’t care.” When police arrived at each of the teen’s houses at 1 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day 1983, they had a search warrant for Chestnut and found a Georgetown Starter jacket in his closet. His mother had the receipt for the jacket and showed it to police, Chestnut said. No blood or physical evidence tied the coat to Duckett or the shooting. But Shoup told the jury the victim’s jacket was in the defendant’s closet, another powerful piece of evidence that prosecutors now say was false.
At sentencing, Stewart told the court: “You still didn’t get the person who did it. I’m saying we know we didn’t do it, and a lot of other people know we didn’t do it.”
The men became eligible for parole in recent years, but all three declined to accept responsibility for the slaying, and so even when parole commissioners recommended them for release, the Maryland governor refused.
“I broke down crying,” Stewart said. “I cried like a baby.” “I feel like all these years I’ve been saying the same thing,” Chestnut said. “Finally, somebody heard my cry. I give thanks to God and Marilyn Mosby. She’s been doing a lot of work for guys in my situation.”
On Monday, their final court appearance was over in less than half an hour. Lipscomb and the defense attorneys asked the judge to grant a writ of actual innocence, which he did, ordering a new trial. Lipscomb then listed all the evidence that was withheld from the men’s lawyers in 1984, to the judge’s apparent disbelief.
Lipscomb proceeded to dismiss all charges against all three men. “Happy Thanksgiving,” she added, and the audience cheered.
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