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BPW to vote on millions in compensation for 3 wrongfully convicted men

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, left, speaks as Prince George's County State's Attorney Aisha Braveboy looks on. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, left, speaks before the state Senate in February 2020 as Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy looks on. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Three men wrongfully convicted for a 1983 murder will receive $2.9 million each in compensation if the Maryland Board of Public Works votes to approve the payments on Wednesday.

Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart were convicted of murder in 1984 and spent 36 years in prison before being exonerated by Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby in November.

The three were charged as teens for the murder of 14-year-old DeWitt Duckett in the hallway of Harlem Park Junior High School. Chestnut wrote to the Conviction Integrity Unit in Mosby’s office and asked her to look into the case, prompting a reinvestigation last year.

Chestnut, Watkins and Stewart were the seventh, eighth and ninth exonerations enabled by Mosby’s Conviction Integrity Unit since she took office in 2015.

Compensation for the men will be discussed by the board, comprised of Gov. Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, at its meeting Wednesday.

The board approved $9 million in compensation for five exonerees in October, deciding to award each man $78,916 — the median household income in the state — for each year they were incarcerated. For Chestnut, Watkins and Stewart, that number has been adjusted to $81,868.

The recommended compensation, if approved, would be paid out over seven years, with $35,140 paid within 30 days of board approval, according to the agenda. The total amount includes $10,616 for mental health and financial counseling.

The Maryland General Assembly is currently considering legislation to reform the compensation process for exonerees.

The legislation provides for a standard amount of compensation per year of incarceration, based on the state’s median household income, and assigns the assessment of eligibility to administrative law judges. The cross-filed bills would make people eligible for compensation if they are pardoned by the governor, the state’s attorney certifies their conviction was in error or the administrative law judge finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the conviction was in error.

The bills are supported by the national Innocence Project and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project as well as by a group of exonerees who testified before the legislature last week.

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