Brothers Kenneth “JR” McPherson and Eric Simmons were convicted in 1995 of conspiracy to kill Anthony Wooden during an East Baltimore shooting just after midnight on August 31, 1994. They were convicted based on the testimony of two witnesses: (1) a paid witness who claimed to have seen the crime from a third-floor window that was 150 feet away; and (2) a 13-year-old boy who was threatened with homicide charges until he named JR and Eric, and who recanted his statement before trial and again at trial. Each spent the past 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
Shortly after midnight on August 31, 1994, Anthony Wooden was shot in the head and killed with a .44-caliber bullet in the 1600 block of North Washington Street in East Baltimore.
Witnesses at the scene said two perpetrators ran after Wooden and that those perpetrators may have spoken with two or three other people before the shooting. On September 1, 1994, police got their first concrete lead from Diane Bailey. Bailey lived two blocks from the scene of the shooting, in the 1400 block of Washington Street. Her rent was paid for by police after she’d allegedly witnessed another shooting in West Baltimore. In exchange for her testimony in this case, police moved her again and continued paying her rent.
MAIP, University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic (UBIPC), and the The Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) at the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office jointly reinvestigated the case. That investigation further confirmed both men’s alibis, undermined the State’s already weak evidence, and developed a credible witness who said JR and Eric were not involved.
JR and Eric are the third and fourth people exonerated through this unique partnership in the past ten months, following Clarence Shipley in December 2018 and Jerome Johnson in July 2018. Last year, MAIP received a grant from the Department of Justice that formalized and funded this partnership between two innocence organizations and the only conviction integrity unit in Maryland. That grant funds CIU investigator Brian Ellis and MAIP/UBIPC Paralegal/Investigator Emily Heun Pate, both of whom were critical to achieving today’s result along with CIU head Lauren Lipscomb.
Media coverage from The Baltimore Sun and WBAL.
Read more about JR and Eric at the National Registry of Exonerations.