In 2015, State’s Attorney Mosby reconfigured and expanded the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU), charging the division with investigating claims of actual innocence and wrongful convictions. Today, CIU is the only Conviction Integrity Unit in the state and is led by a division chief, and staffed by four Assistant State’s Attorneys (ASA) and two law clerks. In 2018, CIU expanded to include a new, grant-funded investigator dedicated to investigating the claims of actual innocence and wrongful conviction. The federal grant was received in partnership with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and the University of Baltimore’s Innocence Project Clinic.
In addition to investigating claims of actual innocence and wrongful conviction, CIU ensures the integrity of convictions by handling a variety of collateral matters including petitions for expungement, modification motions, habeas petitions and other post-sentencing matters. CIU also reviews all Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) requests from incarcerated individuals, which includes approximately 300 requests a year.
Freeing the Innocent
In partnership with the Innocence Project, CIU led the exoneration of 8 innocent men:
Baltimore (December 15, 2020) - Today, Judge Peters granted the joint petition for writ of actual innocence, thereby exonerating Melvin Thomas for his role in a non-fatal shooting. Mr. Thomas had been found guilty by a court in 2001 and sentenced to 65 years in prison. Mr. Thomas’s conviction was predicated wholly on the testimony of one witness, the victim. In 2018, the victim recanted his testimony. The Conviction Integrity Unit’s (CIU) investigation centered around the credibility of the victim’s recantation alongside any new or newly evaluated evidence in determining innocence. The CIU ultimately recommended that the Court grant the joint petition for writ of actual innocence and then dismissed the case.
Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins, and Andrew Stewart
On November 25, 2019, CIU exonerated Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins, and Andrew Stewart, who were jailed for 36 years for a crime they didn’t commit. The three men were arrested on Thanksgiving Day in 1983 and convicted for the murder of a 14-year-old Baltimore teenager.
Kenneth McPherson and Eric Simmons
On May 3, 2019 Kenneth McPherson and Eric Simmons, who are brothers, were released from prison after being incarcerated for nearly 25 years in prison for a murder they did not commit. The original case relied heavily upon the observation of a witness who recanted their testimony. That witness told three people that the defendants were not involved. The jury was not aware of these statements.
In December 2018, CIU collaborated with the University of Baltimore Innocence Project clinic exonerated Clarence Shipley after serving 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Mr. Shipley was wrongfully convicted for the murder of Kevin Smith in 1991.
In July 2018, CIU and its partners united to exonerate Jerome Johnson, the third person in three and a half years. Mr. Johnson was released from prison after serving nearly 30 years in prison for the 1988 murder of Aaron Taylor shot to death at the Night Owl Bar.
In September 2017, CIU exonerated Lamar Johnson who spent nearly 14 years behind bars for the first-degree murder of Carlos Sawyer shot in 2005. The subsequent re-investigation of the case began in 2016, and resulted in several independent witnesses confirming that Johnson was not the shooter.
In May 2016, CIU successfully exonerated Malcolm Bryant for the murder of 16-year-old Toni Bullock. Bryant spent 17 years behind bars after he was wrongfully convicted in 1999 of second-degree murder.