Baltimore brothers gain release from prison after spending decades in jail

Two brothers who have spent over two decades behind bars for a murder they did not commit were released from prison Friday.

The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office announced that it would agree to vacate the convictions and dismiss all charges against the Kenneth “JR” McPherson and Eric Simmons, who were convicted in 1995 of conspiracy to kill 21-year-old Anthony Wooden during an east Baltimore shooting just after midnight on Aug. 31, 1994.

The Office of the Public Defender said their convictions relied upon the testimony of two witnesses: one was a paid witness who claimed to have seen the crime from a third-floor window that was 150 feet away and the other was a 13-year-old boy who was threatened with homicide charges. He who later recanted his statement before trial and again at trial.

An investigation by the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic, the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit confirmed both men’s alibis, undermined the state’s weak evidence and identified a credible witness who said McPherson and Simmons were not involved.

“I was drowning. I was in the water, underwater and she reached in and pulled me out and gave me CPR. She saved my life,” McPherson said of those who worked to get him freed.

“There are so many people that would have left us to die in prison for something we didn’t do. I don’t have the words right now,” Simmons said.

“I want to say to you, ‘I apologize from the bottom of my heart.’ It is so incredibly important to me to apologize to both Mr. McPherson and Mr. Simmons as well as to their family, who have had to serve that time with them,” Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said.

Daniel Ellison, a former co-defendant who also denied involvement, said he had to take an Alford plea. He served 15 years in prison.

“This has been 24 years that we’ve been trying to get my two co-defendants home. The truth came out back then, the truth came out today and it worked,” Ellison said.

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