BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The three men who were exonerated after being wrongfully convicted as teenagers for the murder of a Harlem Park Junior High School student filed a lawsuit in federal court on Thursday.
The men, Alfred Chestnut, Andrew Stewart, and Ransom Watkins were exonerated in 2019 after spending 36 years in prison.
“When they sent us to prison as teenagers, they stole our lives from us. They took our families from us. They took our childhoods. This lawsuit can’t bring back everything we lost, but it’s an important step as we try to move forward and heal,” Chestnut said.
“I can’t describe what it felt like to sit in that prison cell, knowing we were innocent and that the system had failed us. I am so grateful to everyone who stayed with us, who believed in us and fought with us. We wouldn’t be free without them,” Stewart said.
Mr. Watkins added, “This isn’t the end—it’s just the beginning. It’s the beginning of our lives as free men. And the beginning of holding the homicide detectives and police department responsible for what they did to us.”
Their 108 combined years of wrongful incarceration is the longest in American history, according to their lawyers.
The lawsuit alleges detectives coerced false statements and manufactured a narrative that implicated the three to the crime.
“The detectives also failed to investigate evidence pointing to the likely true perpetrator. They ignored and suppressed evidence that one suspect was seen throwing a gun and running away from the school after the shooting, bragging about shooting DeWitt, and wearing DeWitt’s Georgetown jacket the night of the murder. The lawsuit also alleges that the detectives’ misconduct was part of a decades-long pattern of unconstitutional conduct within Baltimore’s Homicide Unit,”
All three are jointly represented by Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP and Nathans & Biddle, LLP.