The Baltimore City Board approved a $48 million settlement for the wrongful conviction of three Black men, known as the “Harlem Park Three,” after the trio spent nearly 40 years behind bars.
According to CBS News, the settlement, which was unanimously approved on Oct. 18 by the board, is the largest payout in Baltimore’s history. The Harlem Park Three—Alfred Chestnut, Andrew Stewart, and Ransom Watkins, all 16 years old—were wrongfully convicted in 1983 for killing of their childhood friend Dewitt Duckett.
“Today our city paid a moral, ethical, and financial debt left on us by a previous generation and decades of injustice. First and foremost, our hearts are with Alfred Chestnut, Andrew Stewart, Ransom Watkins, and their families,” Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby said in a statement. “Nothing in this world can make up for the mental and emotional trauma that has been put on these innocent men and their families. No amount of compensation can right the wrongs of 36 years of turmoil and the residual effects on these men, their families, and communities.”
After receiving lifetime sentences in 2019, the trio was exonerated in 2019 after being in prison for 36 years.
Their lawsuit against the City of Baltimore accused the police officers of coercing young witnesses to fabricate their involvement and that the detectives also presented a false narrative that placed the crime on the three individuals. They also ignored eyewitness accounts and physical evidence that was directed to a different suspect.
Mosby expressed his disappointment and said police officers should be held more accountable in cases of misconduct. He also said that the officers should be included in the settlements by taking away money from their pensions as opposed to using city funds to pay victims.
“The individual responsible should take some sort of ownership,” he said. “It’s problematic and we should look into it.”
The money will be paid through a risk management fund from the city.
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