He Witnessed a Murder, Then Knowingly Lied on Stand

'New Yorker' follows up on case of trio who wrongfully spent 36 years behind bars
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 31, 2021 1:10 PM CDT
His Lie Sent Them to Prison, and Now They Forgive Him
Andrew Stewart, from left, Alfred Chestnut, and Ransom Watkins speak in Baltimore in 2019 after being exonerated.   (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

The story made headlines a few years ago: Three men were freed from prison after serving 36 years for a Baltimore murder they didn't commit. At the New Yorker, Jennifer Gonnerman provides an in-depth look at what happened from a unique perspective—that of one of the young witnesses whose testimony helped put the men behind bars. Ron Bishop was just 14 in 1983 when his friend DeWitt Duckett was fatally shot inside their junior high school as they walked together in a deserted corridor. The gunman stole DeWitt's jacket. Detectives quickly settled on the trio as the culprits, dismissing Bishop's first-person recollection of a single shooter. He says they threatened him with prison as an accessory to murder unless he changed his story. As a Black teenager terrified they could easily make good on that threat, he went to court and knowingly lied.

"I was thinking, 'Should I get a gun and blow my brains out?' I was torn between committing suicide or, you know, go into court and tell these bunch of lies," recalls Bishop, now in his 50s. He stayed silent as the men spent nearly four decades in prison, recanting only after the Baltimore State's Attorney office reopened the case decades after the convictions. Bishop says he has been tortured his entire life over what he did, and the story ends with Gonnerman reading a note from him to the three men in which he expresses remorse. All were moved by the message and forgave him. "I really needed that," says Ransom Watkins, one of the three. "That really helped me out, to hear somebody say, 'You know what? I was wrong.' ... You have all these people involved in our case, (and) ain’t none of them said they were sorry." (The full story is a great read.)

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