Published October 26, 2020
“You have two things against you — you’re Black and I have a badge.” That is what a Baltimore detective said to Ransom Watkins while interrogating the 16-year-old for a murder he did not commit.
Ransom and his friends Alfred Chestnut and Andrew Stewart were visiting Harlem Park Junior High on the same day that a student was shot and killed. Police focused on the “Harlem Park Three” as suspects, despite evidence that someone else committed the crime. Detectives questioned the teenagers separately, without their parents, but they maintained their innocence. Police pressure eventually led other teenagers to identify the Harlem Park Three as the killers.
Watkins, Chestnut and Stewart spent 36 years in prison before the truth came out. Decades after the crime occurred, a previously hidden police report emerged pointing to a different shooter. With the help of the Baltimore City state’s attorney, Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and Office of the Public Defender, the Harlem Park Three, received a “writ of actual innocence” and walked free last November.
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