BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The sounds of protest are still ringing in ears and hang in the air across America. Visions of hundreds of thousands of people pounding the pavement, reminiscent of the turbulent sixties, marches against police brutality and the killing of Black people continues to be a theme among people of all races.
But the calls for police reform are not new. This week we have heard from three Baltimore men who were wrongfully convicted and railroaded through by a system that left them in prison for 36 years for a crime they did not commit.
Vic Carter continues his interview tonight with the Harlem Park Three.
As a young boy growing up in the south, Vic Carter knows all too well what it meant to be profiled because of his race. He says he still experiences it even today, so you can imagine that when he sat down with three men exonerated for a murder they didn’t commit, he heard their every word
These brave men reflect on the current day protests for police reform that echo what they experienced nearly 40 years ago.
- In Their Own Words: Exonerated Harlem Park Three Recall Their 1983 Murder Arrests, Say More Innocent People Are ‘Wasting Away’ In Prison
- Even Though They Are Free, Harlem Park Three Struggle To Adjust To Life After Prison
When young protesters marched to call for police reform, they were trying to send a message that anyone of color could become the victim of violence at the hands of those who are charged with the responsibility to protect and serve.
“Being a news anchor in Baltimore, a big news anchor in Baltimore – that doesn’t matter,” Watkins said. “And you can never forget that one day a cop may pull you over and he will forget about that and he will treat you the same way he treated us.”
For Alfred Chestnut, Andrew Stewart, and Ransom Watkins watching the protest unfold across the country struck a cord with them. As teenagers they were accused of the murder of one of their friends. They proclaimed their innocence from the very beginning, but police detectives allegedly chose to ignore exculpatory evidence that would have proven they were charging the wrong teens.
“The witnesses were brought into the police station and its our understanding that they were threatened with charges themselves,” Shawn Amburst, of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, said. “They’re juveniles, their parents aren’t there and they then identified Chestnut, Walker and Stewart – based on that the three are convicted.”
The Innocence Project was a major factor in the November 2019 release of the so-called Harlem Park Three. Exonerated, they are now trying to put their lives back together. They are free men who have a different view of the world they left 36 years ago.
“We still leaning how to drive, how to pay our own bills,” Stewart said. “We are leaning some of the simple things in life we should have known 37 years ago, but [they] took that from us.”
These men applaud the young people who are protesting for police reform today, something that didn’t exist when they were convicted for a crime they didn’t commit.
“Those kids that are in the streets for Black Lives Matter, I support them and I am glad to see them out there because that let me know they are conscious of what’s going on,” Ransom said.
Now the world is aware of what’s going on and these three men are praying that in their lifetime they will see change. Until then, they support the movement.
“That’s why they we’re out there cause they know their family members are sitting in prison just like we were sitting in prison. That’s why they are out there,” Watkins said.
Attorneys for Chestnut, Stewart, and Watkins emphasize that their lawsuit is not just about their three clients, but hopes to address the larger problem of wrongful convictions based on flawed evidence.
No word yet on when they will have their day in court. It’s a case they want a jury to decide.
WJZ has asked the Baltimore Police Department to respond to our questions about the lawsuit. Their response is they do not comment on pending litigation.
This is the third part in a exclusive interview with the Harlem Park Three. Part 1 and 2 and linked above.