Three men who served 36 years in a Maryland prison were freed Monday after new evidence exonerated them in the killing of a Baltimore teen in 1983, CBS Balitmore reported. Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart were arrested on Thanksgiving of that year, and accused of killing 14-year-old Dewitt Duckett in the hallway of Harlem Park Junior High School over his Georgetown jacket.
Baltimore States' Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Monday that a reinvestigation brought forth new evidence and testimony from witnesses that proved the trio's innocence.
Inside the Baltimore courthouse, there were tears and hugs from family members and friends who said they have been waiting for this moment for 36 years.
"On behalf of the criminal justice system, and I'm sure this means very little to you gentlemen, I'm going to apologize," Circuit Court Judge Charles Peters told the men, the Baltimore Sun reported.
The Baltimore Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) reopened the investigation and worked with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and the University of Baltimore Innocence Project after Chestnut contacted the CIU to say all three were innocent.
Prosecutors said police reports showed multiple witnesses told police that the another person, who was 18 at the time of the crime, was the shooter. One student said they saw him flee the scene and dump a gun as police arrived at Harlem Park Junior High School, but authorities at the time focused their investigation on the trio.
That person was shot to death in 2002, according to The Associated Press.
"Everyone involved in this case — school officials, police, prosecutors, jurors, the media, and the community — rushed to judgment and allowed their tunnel vision to obscure obvious problems with the evidence," said Shawn Armbrust, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, which represents Watkins. Armbrust added that "this case should be a lesson to everyone that the search for quick answers can lead to tragic results."
Mosby said it is up to the city to make sure the men have the resources they need to succeed in life after prison.