Two brothers, Kenneth “JR” McPherson and Eric Simmons, are finally walking free after spending 24 years in prison for a crime they never committed. They were recently exonerated after finding out that they were wrongfully convicted of murder conspiracy and sentenced to life in prison in May 1995.
Last month, McPherson, who is 45-years old, and Simmons, who is 48-years old, are welcomed by their family members following a hearing in Baltimore Circuit Court. Simmons, who had a then-2-year old son at the time he was sent to jail, finally hugged his now grown son.
McPherson compared their life sentence to drowning in a swimming pool and their savior was Lauren Lipscomb, the chief of the conviction integrity unit of the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office. He said, “She dove in and she grabbed me… grabbed us out and gave us CPR. You saved my life.”
In 1994, the brothers were arrested for allegedly killing 21-year old Anthony Wooden with at least over a dozen shots fired. Police charged McPherson and Simmons with conspiracy to commit murder.
A 13-year-old boy testified during the old trial that he saw the crime from a 3rd-floor window that’s about 150 feet away. He identified the brothers as the killers. But eventually, he recanted his statement and it was found that the boy was threatened with homicide charges.
Moreover, at the time of the shooting, McPherson was at a party and Simmons was in bed at home. Investigators confirmed it through evidence and another witness who said the brothers had no role in the shooting incident.
Two years ago, McPherson and Simmons wrote to the state’s attorney office. Lipscomb determined that the case should be investigated again. With the help of the innocence projects at George Washington University and the University of Baltimore, they have been exonerated.
“We’ve set another two innocent men free,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said. “On behalf of the criminal justice system, I apologize to you from the bottom of my heart.” She believed the two were victims of being mistakenly put among robbers and gunmen who really pursued and killed Wooden.
“JR and Eric deserve compensation from the state for the time they served in prison for a crime they didn’t do,” said Shawn Armbrust, executive director of The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project at George Washington.