News

Innocence Project Files Complaint Against Prosecutor in Anthony Wright Case

By Innocence Staff

Anthony Wright, photo by Kevin Monko.

In August 2016, Innocence Project client Anthony Wright was acquitted of a 1991 rape and murder that DNA evidence proved he did not commit. After being wrongly incarcerated for 25 years, Wright became the country’s 344th DNA exoneree.

Related: I stand with the Innocence Project in combatting prosecutorial misconduct

On the two-year anniversary of Wright’s acquittal, the Innocence Project filed a formal complaint against Bridget L. Kirn, the lead prosecutor in Wright’s 2016 retrial who told the jury he was guilty and should remain incarcerated, even though DNA evidence proved he was innocent. The complaint, which accuses Kirn of official misconduct, was filed with the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

The 29-page complaint requests that the Board investigate new evidence that Kirn allowed two police witnesses to give what she knew was false testimony at Wright’s 2016 trial:

The instant complaint asks the Board to investigate new evidence, developed by civil counsel for Mr. Wright in the two years since his acquittal, that Ms. Kirn knowingly violated the Rules of Professional Conduct during the course of the August 2016 trial. Specifically, sworn deposition testimony obtained from numerous law enforcement witnesses during the course of Mr. Wright’s subsequent civil rights lawsuit – and not disputed by Ms. Kirn herself – has revealed that Ms. Kirn failed to correct what she personally knew to be false testimony given by two of the lead detectives called as witnesses by the Commonwealth.

[T]he detectives’ testimony related to an issue that was at the heart of the trial: newly-developed DNA evidence that stood in direct conflict with the detectives’ earlier claim about Mr. Wright’s supposedly voluntary “confession” to the crime, and with physical evidence they claimed to have recovered from Mr. Wright’s home. Yet despite (or, perhaps, because) the detectives’ credibility and truthfulness in the eyes of the jury was absolutely critical to the Commonwealth’s prospects for securing Mr. Wright’s conviction despite the new DNA evidence, Ms. Kirn failed to alert the Court or the jury to what she personally knew was the falsity of their testimony, or otherwise honor her ethical duty to correct it. As such, counsel respectfully submits that the Board has substantial grounds to investigate and discipline Ms. Kirn for at least two violations of Pa. Rule Prof’l Conduct 3.3(a)(3).

In short, the complaint alleges that Kirn allowed the detectives to falsely testify regarding what they claimed was a lack of knowledge about the new DNA test results, and that Kirn knew their testimony was false because she herself had explained the results to these detectives in detail before the trial. Under Pennsylvania’s rules of legal ethics, Kirn was obligated to inform the judge and jury that the detectives’ testimony was false.

The truth about Kirn’s alleged misconduct was unveiled last year when the former detectives gave sworn testimony as defendants in Wright’s civil rights lawsuit and admitted that Kirn had told them about the DNA results in detail before they testified.

“Had she succeeded in her efforts to convict Mr. Wright of murder a second time, he would still be behind bars, spending the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole,” reads the complaint. “The fact that she did not ultimately achieve this objective should not minimize the severity of her misconduct. Nor should it prevent the board and the Supreme Court from holding her fully accountable for her actions.”

According to a story published in the Inquirer about the complaint, there could be serious consequences for Kirn: “If the board conducts an investigation and finds merit in the charges it could impose sanctions on Kirn that range from reprimand to public censure to suspension of her law license to disbarment.”

15 Comments

  1. Kathleen Cummings

    Hurray, Innocence Project! Thank you and keep the successful DNA exoneree number counting!

  2. Nina Thomas

    Thank you all for your efforts, time and humanity! Right the wrongs that continue to plague our society. Each and everyone of them!

  3. Kim Knott

    Excellent work Innocence Project! It breaks my heart to think about all the wrongfully acvused at the hands of incompetent, sleezy, cowardly prosecutors. I pray for all the families destroyed by these evil people. My brother, Jamie, was also wrongfully convicted similar story – a cop testified false statement. But no DNA to exonerate him. …….he hung himself in prison after the first denial of retrial…..and all he wants is for them to tell the truth.

  4. Lorraine Brooks

    Unfortunately, prosecutors are never held accountable for their misconduct. Justice for Jesse Brooks.com

  5. Karen Seay

    While I am very proud of the Innocence Project’s work to exonerate those who have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, I am even prouder of your work to expose and call to account prosecutorial misconduct that results in wrongful prosecutions and convictions in the first place. Prosecutorial oversight is badly needed, and I am delighted to be a supporter of the excellent work the Innocence Project does to bring greater integrity to a justice system so in need of greater accountability to the people it is supposed to serve.

  6. Elizabeth Block

    I wish this case were unique.
    In Canada, David Milgaard was imprisoned for 23 years for a murder he did not commit. The actual killer was known to police but never investigated. And when he was exonerated by DNA evidence, the prosecutor who had convicted him called it a technicality.

  7. Gerardo Gonzales

    Good word this should become common practice in all these cases!

  8. A Bey

    I applaud everything that the Innocence Project does, it breaks my heart to hear and see so many stories about Prosecutor’s usings their so called powers to commit such acts as they do, I am a living proof to their treacherous conduct! A million ✋’s up and standing ovation for The IP tireless and timeless efforts to seek Justice for those that were wronged! You have my upmost Support!

  9. KAT CLARY

    IT’S ABOUT TIME THE PEOPLE WHO ARE INVOLVED IN WRONGFUL CONVICTION ARE ACCOUNTABLE!! THANK YOU FOR ALL WHO WORK TIRELESSLY FOR THE INNOCENT, OUR HEARTS ARE WITH YOU.

  10. Jenny Mohawk

    I cannot adequately express my admiration for the Innocence Project’s work. Agree 100% with comments above, especially those of Kim Knott. And Ms. Knott if you ever read this my deepest sympathies and respect for your family at this time – remember there’s a Heaven and you will see him again. Innocence Project you rock – please keep on, especially now.

  11. Esther Pineiro-Hall

    She should be disbarred!!!!! No leniency…that or 25 years in jail herself.
    If the consequences for this immoral, unjust behavior is strong, it will hapoen kess. We need this to hit hone so others will think twice about this incredibly unethical behavior. Who knows how many other false testimonies have put innocent people behind bars. Thank you for your work Innocence Project!!

  12. Vicki Osborn

    The behavior of this prosecutor, and hundreds like her, has been status quo for way too long. Thank you Innocence Project for bringing this to the public’s eye and also, more importantly, to take action against this individual. The hubris of a few creates long term, permanent damage for these victims and their families. I consider that a crime against humanity.

  13. Carole Shaffer-Koros

    This is a great story of an effort to attack corruption in the prosecutor’s office. I am asking why the Innocence Project doesn’t undertake the case of Stephen Avery.

  14. Elreta Dodds

    Thank you for your great work to free the innocent. It has always bothered me that deliberate prosecutorial misconduct could lead to someone being incarcerated who shouldn’t be. Thank you for lodging a complaint against the prosecutor in the case cited. However, I’m wondering if the Innocence Project would ever consider lobbying for a bill that would make prosecutorial misconduct a felony with a mandatory prison sentence if convicted. Unless there are more serious repercussions other than losing a license, corrupt prosecutors will be more likely than not to take the risk of misconduct for their own selfish means. If you would consider lobbying for such a bill, then I’d be willing to volunteer in whatever way I could in order to help push the bill through. Thanks again for your great work in freeing those who have been unjustly imprisoned.

  15. Starlyn Harvey

    Great job. When we start holding them ( district attorney) accountable for misconduct I guarantee you their would be less wrongful conviction. Better yet how about they do same time in jail the individual did. Again great job innocent project.

Leave a Reply

Featured news