BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore City State’s Attorney Office launched a new campaign called “Faces Of Actual Innocence” to help share the stories of men who were wrongfully convicted.

“As we approach International Wrongful Conviction Day, we must celebrate the freedom gained by these men and also recognize the families who are now forced to restart their healing journey,” said State’s Attorney Mosby. “While, there is no way we can ever repair the unspeakable trauma endured by these men and the victims’ families, we are here today to do our part to right the wrongs of the past and offer a real support network for those that have endured unimaginable trauma because of a flawed criminal justice system.”

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The campaign will feature video interviews with exonerated men along with a partnership with restorative justice nonprofit “Healing Justice.” There will also be a panel discussion which is scheduled for Oct. 2 — Internation Wrongful Conviction Day.

“When innocent people are convicted, the impact on the wrongfully convicted, their families, victims, and the community is catastrophic. Having a State’s Attorney who recognizes the importance of this problem will not only help prevent wrongful convictions, but it will help restore the community trust that wrongful convictions have irreparably damaged. We’re thrilled to continue our partnership to address these problems and encouraged that the State’s Attorney has partnered with Healing Justice, the only organization that exists to address the collective harms to exonerees, victims-survivors, and their families,” said Shawn Ambrust, Executive Director, Baltimore Innocence Project.

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“Wrongful convictions cause tremendous damage to the exonerated and their families as well as to the original crime victims and their families, who are often overlooked. Ensuring that victims and families receive information and support, and are treated with sensitivity and respect, are key to protecting public safety, restoring confidence in our justice system, and helping all who are harmed in these cases to recover and rebuild. Healing Justice is honored to work with the State’s Attorney on this project to use restorative practices and restorative justice to create individual and community healing,” said Katie Monroe, Executive Director, Healing Justice.

The wrongfully convicted men to be featured include: 

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  • MELVIN THOMAS – On December 15, 2020, Melvin Thomas was exonerated for his role in a non-fatal shooting that he never committed. Mr. Thomas was found guilty by a court in 2001 and sentenced to 65 years in prison. Mr. Thomas’ conviction was predicated wholly on the testimony of one witness, the victim, who recanted after seeing the true perpetrator years later.
  • KENNETH MCPHERSON AND ERIC SIMMONS – On May 3, 2019, Kenneth McPherson and Eric Simmons, who are brothers, were released from prison after being incarcerated for nearly 25 years in prison for a murder they did not commit. The original case relied heavily upon the observation of a benefitted witness and a witness who told several people that the defendants were not involved. The jury was not aware of these statements.
  • ALFRED CHESTNUT, RANSOM WATKINS, AND ANDREW STEWART – On November 25, 2019, the CIU exonerated Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins, and Andrew Stewart, who were jailed for 36 years for a crime they didn’t commit. The three men were arrested on Thanksgiving Day in 1983 and convicted for the murder of a 14-year-old Baltimore teenager.
  • CLARENCE SHIPLEY – In December 2018, the CIU collaborated with the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic to exonerate Clarence Shipley who served 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Mr. Shipley had been wrongfully convicted for the murder of Kevin Smith in 1991.
  • JEROME JOHNSON – In July 2018, the CIU and its partners united to exonerate Jerome Johnson. Johnson was the third person to be exonerated by the unit in three and a half years. Mr. Johnson was released from prison after serving nearly 30 years in prison for the 1988 murder of Aaron Taylor shot to death at the Night Owl Bar.
  • LAMAR JOHNSON – In September 2017, the CIU exonerated Lamar Johnson. Johnson spent nearly 14 years behind bars, for the first-degree murder of Carlos Sawyer who was shot in 2004. The subsequent re-investigation of the case began in 2016, and resulted in several independent witnesses confirming that Johnson was not the shooter.
  • MALCOLM BRYANT – In May 2016, the CIU successfully exonerated Malcolm Bryant for the murder of a 16-year-old teenager. Bryant spent 17 years behind bars after he was wrongfully convicted in 1999 of second-degree murder.

For more info and to watch the premiere video, click here.

CBS Baltimore Staff