Three men who were wrongly arrested and spent 36 years in prison for a murder they did not commit will receive a $48 million payout from the city of Baltimore, the Washington Post reports. They were arrested as teenagers by Baltimore police and found guilty by a jury. The $48 million payout is the highest ever awarded in Maryland and one of the highest multi-plaintiff settlements nationally. The three men also received $2.9 million from the state of Maryland in 2020 under a compensation plan created for exonerees. Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart were each 16 at the time of the alleged crime. The case attracted intense publicity in 1983, as one of the first involving violent theft of athletic gear. Baltimore prosecutors, led by then-Assistant State’s Attorney Jonathan Shoup, elected to try the juveniles as adults.
Shoup told defense attorneys there was no evidence exonerating the teens, despite reports showing that witnesses hadn’t identified them and that another person had been named as a suspect, defense attorneys said. Several witnesses later told investigators that detectives coerced statements from them, falsely accusing the “Harlem Park Three,” who were sentenced to life in prison at age 17. Their appeals failed, and Watkins and Stewart said in interviews that they had resigned themselves to life behind bars. Chestnut kept pushing. He filed a public-records request to the Maryland attorney general in 2018, and obtained reports the prosecutor said didn’t exist. Chestnut saw then-Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby on television speaking about her Conviction Integrity Unit, designed to correct wrongs inflicted by her predecessors. Chestnut sent a handwritten letter to Mosby and sent his files to the unit. After reviewing the case, Mosby moved to vacate the Harlem Park Three convictions. On Nov. 25, 2019, after a judge apologized to them and granted Mosby’s motion, the men walked out of the Baltimore City courthouse into the arms of loved ones.