Watch: Baltimore Brothers Set Free After 24 Years In Prison For Wrongful Murder Conviction

A j*udge set free two brothers from East Baltimore on Friday after finding they had been wrongly c*onvicted of a m*urder conspiracy 24 years ago.

Kenneth “JR” McPherson, 45, and Eric Simmons, 48, were c*onvicted in May 1995 and s*entenced to life in p*rison.

They were e*xonerated during a h*earing in Baltimore Circuit C*ourt, then stepped outside to a crowd of tearful family members.

“I was in a pool, a swimming pool, and I was drowning,” McPherson said. He pointed to Lauren Lipscomb, chief of the c*onviction integrity unit of the Baltimore State’s A*ttorney’s Office.

“She dove in and she g*rabbed me,” he said, “g*rabbed us out and gave us CPR. You saved my life.”

Two years ago, the brothers wrote to the state’s a*ttorney’s office, and Lipscomb determined their case should be i*nvestigated again. P*rosecutors sought help from the i*nnocence projects at George Washington University and the University of Baltimore. The teams of researchers and students hunt for wrongful c*onvictions.

Outside the c*ourthouse, Simmons wrapped his grown son in a hug and kissed his cheek.

“My son was 2 years old when I got locked up,” he told the crowd.

In 1994, p*olice a*rrested and a*ccused the brothers of g*unning d*own Anthony Wooden, 21, shortly after midnight in the Broadway East neighborhood of East Baltimore. P*olice found more than a dozen sh*ots had been f*ired. They ch*arged McPherson and Simmons with conspiracy to c*ommit m*urder.

Baltimore State’s A*ttorney Marilyn Mosby said the brothers had been wrongly placed among a crew of r*obbers and g*unmen who p*ursued and k*illed Wooden. McPherson was at a party, she said; Simmons, home in bed.

“We’ve set another two i*nnocent men free,” she said. “On behalf of the c*riminal j*ustice system, I apologize to you from the bottom of my heart.”

During the old t*rial, one witness testified to seeing the c*rime from a third-floor window about 150 feet away. A 13-year-old boy — a*ttorneys now say he was th*reatened with h*omicide ch*arges — identified the brothers as the k*illers. Then he recanted his statement during t*rial.

I*nvestigators found evidence to confirm the brothers’ a*libis. They also found a witness who said the brothers had no role.

“JR and Eric deserve compensation from the state for the time they served in p*rison for a c*rime they didn’t do,” said Shawn Armbrust, executive director of the The Mid-Atlantic I*nnocence Project at George Washington.

An affiliate of the project operates here as the Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic. The brothers become the fifth and sixth men e*xonerated in recent years by the research teams and c*onviction integrity unit.

In December, Clarence Shipley Jr., 47, stepped out onto the sidewalk in downtown Baltimore as a free man. He had spent 27 years in p*rison for a wrongful m*urder c*onviction. He too had been c*onvicted on f*aulty witness testimony.

Last July, the researchers freed Jerome Johnson, who was wrongly c*onvicted of m*urder in Park Heights and spent 30 years behind b*ars. Johnson has sued the Baltimore P*olice Department, a*ccusing d*etectives of purposefully withh*olding e*vidence that p*roved him i*nnocent.

Previously, Lamar Johnson was e*xonerated of m*urder in September 2017 after serving 13 years in p*rison. He had been misidentified as having the nickname of the sh*ooter.

Malcolm Bryant was e*xonerated of m*urder in May 2016 by DNA e*vidence and set free after 17 years in p*rison. Bryan d*ied of a s*troke less than one year into his freedom.

Such work is undertaken by teams of researchers, l*awyers and college students with the i*nnocence projects. Often students and l*awyers spend years working to overturn a single c*ase.

I*nnocence projects a*ttorneys in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., say they have e*xonerated 33 i*nnocent men who served a combined 600 years in p*rison for c*rimes they did not commit.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore State’s A*ttorney’s Office says it operates the only c*onviction integrity unit in the state.

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