Baltimore Brothers Who Were Wrongfully Jailed For 24 Years Get $3.8 Million In Compensation
Two brothers who were wrongfully convicted of murder have received $3.8 million in compensation after spending 24 years behind bars.
Eric Simmons and Kenneth “JR” McPherson, from Baltimore, Maryland, were jailed in their early 20s for the 1994 killing of a 21-year-old man – despite the fact they both had alibis for the time of the murder.
After 24 years, the brothers were released in May 2019 with the help of Innocence Project, a nonprofit that works to exonerate wrongly convicted people and reform the criminal justice system to prevent future injustices.
The organisation worked to uncover new evidence in the case, and claimed a 13-year-old suspect had been pressured by police to identify Simmons and McPherson. Police allegedly threatened the teen with murder charges if he did not comply.
Another witness, who worked as a paid police informant in another case, claimed to have seen the murder take place from her third-floor apartment, located 150ft (45 metres) away from where the killing took place.
Prosecutors re-examined the brothers’ cases and found errors had been made by investigators, and following their release last year Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said McPherson was at a nearby party when the killing happened, while Simmons was home in bed.
On Wednesday, June 17, the pair were awarded compensation from the state of Maryland, with the Maryland Board of Public Works voting unanimously to give them eight payments over the next five years, totalling $1.9 million each.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, who chaired the board meeting, said the vote represented ‘an opportunity, a moment in time, when we can make some systemic changes that hopefully we won’t have this kind of situation occurring in the future’, according to the Maryland Reporter.
You really can’t get that time back.
Simmons, who is now 49, said he appreciated the money from the Maryland Board of Public Works, but similarly stressed that no amount can replace the time lost while behind bars.
Speaking to The Washington Post, as per the BBC, he said:
My mother died in ’09, and I can’t get that back. Money can’t fix the time I got jumped on and [guards] would beat me and put me in the hole. Money can’t fix that.
Simmons recalled waking up in prison and wondering if his situation was real, sometimes thinking he was back home.
The case was appealed in 2010, but when it failed Simmons admitted it ‘almost took the life’ out of him.
If it was up to me, I wouldn’t have wanted to wake up after that. It was just God who put breath in my body.
Simmons and McPherson are the ninth and tenth exonerees in Maryland to receive compensation for their wrongful conviction. According to The Innocence Project, there are a total of 30 exonerees in the state.
The Innocence Project has helped free hundreds of people since its inception, a large number of which have been black people. The NAACP states African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white people, proving there is an issue of systemic racism within the institution.
Sadly, Simmons and McPherson have lost more than two decades of their lives to an unjust system; no one else should fall victim to such a problematic process.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk