Alfred Chestnut, Andrew Stewart, and Ransom Watkins were given life prison sentences back in 1984 for the killing of a 14-year-old boy that happened one year earlier.
The three were freed from prison in Baltimore on Monday following their convictions being cleared by a judge after their case was reviewed.
Mr Chestnut sent a letter to Baltimore’s Conviction Integrity Unit and the case was reopened earlier this year. Chestnut included evidence he uncovered in 2018 last year.
Mr. Chestnut, Mr. Stewart, and Mr. Watkins were just teenagers when they were arrested in November of 1983 for the death of DeWitt Duckett, a boy who was at a Baltimore junior high school and was shot in the neck on his way to class, the boy also had his Georgetown University jacket stolen from him.
The fatal shooting of the Baltimore public school student Dewitt was widely covered by the media.
“These three men were convicted, as children, because of police and prosecutorial misconduct,” said Baltimore state attorney Marilyn Mosby after the trio were released.
A statement from her office read, “Detectives targeted the three men, all 16-year-old black boys, using coaching and coercion of other teenage witnesses to make their case.”
During the initial investigation, police officers withheld and ignored reports from multiple witnesses who identified a different person as being the killer, say prosecutors. Trial witnesses also failed to identify the three teens in line-up photos, according to prosecutors.
Marilyn Mosby said all trial witnesses have now recanted the evidence.
“I don’t think that today is a victory, it’s a tragedy. And we need to own up to our responsibility for it,” Mosby said.
The other suspected killer passed away in 2002.
Mr Chestnut obtained case documents last year using a public records request, the documents had been sealed by a judge.
Mr Watkins, at a press conference, said, “This should never have happened. This fight is not over. You all will hear from us again.”
Marilyn Mosby also made an announcement that a new program is being launched called, Resurrection After Exoneration. The program will provide services to assist exonerated people in reintegrating into society and will include support for mental and physical health, and education.
Mosby said the state of Maryland didn’t have legislation for guiding compensation to those who’ve been falsely convicted of a crime, and that she is working to change that.
The Board of Public Works is currently authorized to direct such compensation.
The board has awarded compensation before, and recently, back in October, it awarded $9 million in payments to five men who were wrongfully convicted and jailed for decades. Walter Lomax had served 38 years for murder and was given about $3 million, which was the biggest ever payout made by the state of Maryland for a wrongful conviction.