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Exonerated brothers compensated $2 million each

Posted at 9:52 PM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 23:13:23-04

Birthdays, holidays, funerals— how do you pay someone back for stealing memories?

On Wednesday night, the state of Maryland took a step in doing that for two brothers who were wrongfully convicted of murder in Baltimore.

It took 25 years for brothers Eric Simmons and Kenneth “JR” McPherson to take their first steps as free men a year ago.

A few months back WMAR-2 News' Eddie Kadhim spoke to Simmons as he was struggling to adapt to life with what he calls post traumatic incarceration disorder.

RELATED: Exonerated but not free

Today he’s working through it and looking forward.

“I want to accomplish some other things in my life,” Simmons said. “I’ll be 59 in August so they locked me up when I was 22. I could’ve got a degree or did something and worked toward something.”

The State Board of Public Works voted to approve their compensation right before he spoke to WMAR.

Next month, he and his brother will start getting the $81,000 a year for every year they served. they should receive their total payout of $2 million each, by 2025.

“Surely money can’t give you my mother dying in there in 09,” Simmons said. “My grandfather, my uncle, I can’t get that back if they gave me a zillion dollars. At least I can not worry so much out here about my next step.”

Michelle Feldman is the States Campaigns Director with the Innocence Project.

The Innocence Project worked with Simmons and his brother to get to this point.

She said Maryland’s compensation law is broken and not like other states.

“Putting it in the Board of Public works to decide an issue of justice and innocence really isn’t appropriate,” she said. “That’s why the legislation we were advocating this session, which unfortunately was killed at the last minute, would have put it in the hands of an administrative law judge to determine whose eligible and who’s really innocent and what they should get from the state to compensate for that.”

They will fight hard to get that bill passed in Annapolis next legislative session.

In the meantime the money and the movement Simmons has seen following the death of George Floyd gives him hope that the same systems that have failed so many people will change.

“In there you have corrections officers that will beat you and do all types of stuff, I see the correlation even when I was in prison.”

Whether in the streets or behind cell walls, money isn’t the only thing needed to right the wrongs.

“In their cases and in two other wrongful convictions it was the same cop that was involved and continues to work in a Maryland Police Department,” said Feldman.

There are 30 exonerees in Maryland who have had their wrongful convictions overturned— and now 10 of them are getting compensation.

To learn more about the Innocence Project and their mission to get innocent people out of jail click here.