A Pennsylvania man was freed after spending almost three decades of his life behind bars for a wrongful conviction that the Philadelphia District Attorney's office in a court filing called “perfect storm” of injustice, admitting that the case was tainted by serious misconduct by the prosecution, had an ineffective defense, and included a witness who gave false testimony.
Theophalis Wilson was just a teenager when he was accused of participating in the 1989 murder of three other Philadelphia men. He was convicted, along with a co-defendant, and went on to serve 28 years in jail. At their 1992 trial, the two defendants were convicted after the prosecution put forth a case that primarily relied on the testimony of a third man, who had recently confessed to six murders. However, that witnesses recanted his testimony in 2013, admitting that he lied in an attempt to avoid the death penalty and be released in 15 years for his crimes.
The witness admitted his lie at a 2013 hearing that was re-examining the conviction of Wilson's co-defendant, during which forensics experts testified that the physical evidence in the case did not support the witness's account of events. At that hearing, Wilson's co-defendant had his conviction vacated, but the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office fought the decision for years.
Wilson was only granted the opportunity for a new hearing due to a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that deemed mandatory life-without-parole sentences for minors unconstitutional. The legal team who took on the sentencing also agreed to represent Wilson for his wrongful conviction argument. They found never-before-revealed investigative records that pointed to different suspects and suppressed witnesses.
Additionally, an investigation conducted by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) found numerous violations had been committed by the DA's office, including several failings to abide by the Brady Doctrine. The Brady Doctrine comes from the U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland and mandates that prosecutors must turn over material exculpatory evidence to the defense. According to the DA's court filing, “Several of the violations in this case appear purposeful at worse or reckless at best.” Wilson is the twelfth person who has been exonerated by CIU.
Seattle Criminal Defense
As citizens, we have the right to a fair trial. We are afforded certain protections under the Constitution that aim to make all criminal prosecutions equitable. However, we must acknowledge that things like prosecutorial misconduct can and do occur and the outcome of a criminal trial is not always fair. If you've been charged with a criminal offense, an experienced, aggressive attorney who knows when to question the other side may make a significant difference. Contact the law office of former King County prosecutor Steve Karimi today by calling our office at 206-621-8777 or reach out to us online.