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With New DNA Testing Proving Innocence, Philly Man Acquitted of Murder in Less Than An Hour After Retrial

By Innocence Staff

Anthony Wright hugs his attorney Nina Morrison moments after his release from prison on Aug. 23, 2016.

Anthony Wright Expected To Be Released Tonight at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility at Approximately 6 PM

(PHILADELPHIA – August 23, 2016) After Innocence Project lawyers presented DNA evidence proving the innocence of Anthony Wright and pointing to the real assailant, a Philadelphia jury today acquitted Wright of the 1991 rape and murder of Louise Talley, becoming the 344th DNA exoneree in the nation. Wright wrongly served 25 years for the rape and murder. At the retrial, it was disclosed that DNA testing of clothing alleged by police to have been worn by Wright to commit the crime were not his and could not have been in his home as the police claimed.

“We are extremely relieved that this very long nightmare is finally over for Mr. Wright and his family. DNA testing proved not only that Mr. Wright is absolutely innocent but also that law enforcement fabricated evidence against him,” said Peter Neufeld, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “But it’s outrageous that he has been forced to endure a retrial to gain his freedom after DNA testing already proved his innocence. This case raises many serious questions, and Philadelphians should be deeply concerned about the manner in which law enforcement handled this case and should demand a review of three police detectives responsible for Mr. Wright’s wrongful conviction.”

At the retrial, it was revealed that since the DNA testing was conducted 3 ½ years ago that identified Ronnie Byrd as the real assailant, neither the Philadelphia Police Department nor the District Attorney’s office has conducted any additional investigation. The former district attorney fought efforts by the Innocence Project to conduct the testing for more than 5 years, eventually sending the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which remanded the case back to the district court for a hearing on the testing. The testing of the rape kit identified spermatozoa recovered from the victim’s vagina and rectum that excluded Wright as the source, and was then identified as Byrd’s. Byrd was twice the age of Wright and almost half the age of the victim at the time of the crime and had a long criminal record, which included crimes in and around Philadelphia. Byrd died in South Carolina in early 2013 and was never able to be questioned about the crime or prosecuted for it. DNA testing of the clothes police claimed were worn by Wright to the victim’s home the night of the murder demonstrate that the clothing did not belong to Wright but in fact had been worn by the victim.

Nina Morrison, a Senior Staff Attorney the Innocence Project, added, “Judging by the treatment that Mr. Wright has endured, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has no intention of learning how this tragic miscarriage of justice occurred or how to prevent future injustice. While the Philadelphia police have a policy requiring the recording of interrogations, the state legislators should, at a minimum, enact a law requiring the recording of interrogations throughout the Commonwealth.”

Wright was originally convicted of the 1991 rape and murder of the 77-year-old North Philadelphia resident on June 8, 1993. Police claimed that after merely 14 minutes in custody, Wright voluntarily gave a full and complete signed confession to the crime. Wright, however, who was just 20 when he was arrested, has always maintained his innocence and testified in both the original and the retrial that he only signed the alleged confession, which the police wrote out, after the interrogating detectives threatened him with bodily harm.

All of the prosecution’s original trial witnesses, two of whom were admitted crack dealers, claimed that Wright committed the crime alone, saying either that they saw him enter the victim’s home alone or that he described his actions to them. Not only did the witnesses provide conflicting details, but most importantly, none of them mentioned anything about Byrd, the then 39-year-old convicted felon whose semen was identified by DNA testing on the vaginal and rectal swabs collected from the victim at autopsy.

Since the original trial, two of the witnesses passed away, but under Pennsylvania law, the prosecution was allowed to enter their earlier testimony into evidence without providing the lawyers the opportunity to question them regarding the new DNA evidence.  The prosecution was also allowed to enter the original testimony of three other witnesses, who where then teenagers and known to the police, after they testified at the retrial that they had no recollection of their earlier testimony.

Wright again testified in his own defense, telling the jury that he worked at his full-time construction job on the day of the crime and later went to a night club.

The jury deliberated for less than an hour before reaching its verdict.  Wright, who has now wrongly served 25 years for the crime walked out of the courtroom a free man.  He was surrounded by his family, which includes a son and a granddaughter.  At his original trial, Wright narrowly escaped the death penalty by a 7 to 5 vote of the jury.

“Philadelphia law enforcement has a lot of questions to answer following today’s verdict. This case should have never been put before a jury given all the evidence pointing to Mr. Wright’s innocence,” said Samuel Silver of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, co-counsel for Wright and Pennsylvania Innocence Project board member. “But we are relieved that justice has prevailed and Mr. Wright has been given back his life.”

Rebecca Lacher of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP also worked on Wright’s case.

A supporter of Wright has established a donation site for those wishing to make contributions.

RELATED: An Innocence Project Tribute to Father’s Day: Anthony Wright

 

30 Comments

  1. Renee'

    I’m glad he’s o ut home with his loved ones I have a son in.prison for the same mess,,I will be calling the Attorneys to help my son please

  2. Don Schricker

    Just another example of how so many blacks have been treated by our justice system. Justice seems so out of place in that sentence. Injustice is more correct. I’m 70, white and have seen it my entire life, living in Chicago and Montgomery Alabama. My father was a base commander in the Air Force and would not tolerate it in any form and made sure that his children acted in the same manner.
    I think every person in this country should vote for Donald Trump!
    As he says “what have you got to loose”?
    I think he would give everyone a fair chance, no matter what your race!
    Everyone else talks it, but he will do it!
    Our system needs to be changed. The officials and police that put this man away and then kept him there, should go to jail for as long as did this man.
    Many thanks to the people who helped free him!!!

  3. Zoila

    God bless the work you are all doing to defend the innocent and reverse the mistakes made. His life is forever changed.

  4. Richard

    Thank you for the work you guys do at The Innocence Project and those that helped. Great work!

  5. Carlos

    I have great respect for all attorneys at Innocence Project. Well done!! Using their skills for the greater good! God bless you all!

  6. Charles Coley

    And to think, five people actually voted to put him to death. This is one of the reasons that I’m strongly against capitol punishment. People’s lives are put in the hands of other people that cook the books, and still others that get it wrong because of the burning books!

  7. CALVIN A. LEE

    THANKS BE TO GOD , FOR BROTHER ANTHONY WRIGHTS RELEASE. AND THANKS AND GLORY BE TO GOD FOR THE ATTORNEYS,AND STAFF AT THE INNOCENCE PROJECT. I CALVIN A. LEE ,PERSONALLY LOVE EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU’LL. FOR YOUR DEDICA- TION TO HELPING THE POOR AND INNOCENT. IT JUST GOES TO SHOW THAT PEOPLE PLACED IN AUTHORITY POSITION’S. ARE JUST COMMON CRIMINAL THEMSELVES HIDING BEHIND BADGE’S , ROBE’S AND APPOINTED COURT JOB’S . THEY ARE ALL OVER THIS NATION. ESPECIALLY IN THE SOUTH. THESE MARSHALL’S,AND SHERIFF’S ,POLICE ,D’A’S JUDGE’S CLERK’S OF THE COURT’S AN ETC’S. ARE THE PEOPLE THAT ARE DESTROYING . THIS GREAT COUNTRY, WITH THEIR QUEST FOR POWER AND SELFISHNESS,BIGOT’S BIGOTRY. AND WHEN THEY ARE BROUGHT TO SHAME THEY HAVE NO REMORSE. PROUD AND BOASTFUL OF THEIR ACTION’S. THE BIBLE REFER’S TO THEM AS FOOL’S. IF I COULD SPEAK TO THEM, I COULD TELL THEM ABOUT THEMSELVES. BE BLESSED BRO. A. WRIGHT ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR LIFE,DON’T LET THEM ROB YOU OF IT . PRAISE BE TO THE INNOCENCE PROJECT, BEAUTIFUL ,GLORIES WORK . KEEP IT UP

  8. dee

    Wonderful news! Made my day. Wishing Anthony a lifetime of joy, his patience and persistence paid off.

  9. BIG CALVIN RORIE

    JUST THINK YOU TAX PAYERS , PAY THESE DUMB ASS POLICE, DETECTIVES AN DA’S JUDGES . ALL THAT MONEY TO DO WHAT A COMMON HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT COULD DO BETTER. BUT PEOPLE THAT ACCEPT, THOSE JOB’S ANYWAY COULDN’T BE ANYTHING IN LIFE ANYWAY. THEIR PARENT’S SHOULD HAVE SAVED THEIR FUND’S FOR CHARITY

  10. Christina Hernandez

    Thank you, Innocence Project, for ALL that you do and that you ARE. You are making a big difference, 344 and counting. That’s why I donate to this cause and wear my T-shirts proudly. It gives me a chance to tell people about “The Innocence Project” and IPOT, Innocence Project of Texas. I’ve attended annual conference and so proud to meet these great people, especially some innocent men (exoneratees) that I salute. Mr. Wright, welcome home! God be with you always!

  11. Richard Rosenthal

    I support the Innocence Project in all they do…but I reject the statement we hear over and over in these situations, in this instance uttered by Mr. Silver, that “justice has prevailed.”

    No sir, it did not! If justice prevailed, Mr. Wright would not have been sentenced to prison to start with or, short of that, served the time he did, or, short of that, been subjected to a re-trial.

  12. Sasiren

    I am so very happy that this man was freed. What a shame that he had to endure 25 years of heartache and pain for a heinous crime he did not commit. I am also horrified to think that he could have been executed. Thank God for the Innocence Project and all the staff members who worked so diligently on behalf of those who have been disenfranchised. Mr Wright, I wish you well and hope that you can find peace in your new life. The world has changed from 25 years ago and your presence will make it a better place. God bless you and all those who have helped you.

  13. Frank Ryder

    Good Job, I followed his case for years the same detectives that planed evidence on him is the same detectives that planed on my family. Them detectives got dozens of people charged with crimes they didn’t commit between 1989-1996. Please email me [email protected] thank you

  14. Bill Guerra

    Thank God for the work you do IP. Readers hey donate anything if more folks just gave say $5.00 a month can you imagine how many falslely imprisoned souls could be freed from their cages and rightly reunited with their families?

  15. Susan L. Taylor

    We are called to witness for the innocent every day. You do the work of faith and hope and we are so grateful.

  16. Roc Chambers

    I was a corrections officer at Graterford and had the opportunity to work with Tone and he always use to say to me”Roc I’m going home someday because I am innocent” GOD!!!!! BLESS Him he’s a really good dude I’m very happy for him. Roc Chambers

  17. Jasmine Irvine

    There is an innocent man serving time in Graterford prison right now for a murder he did not commit. His name is John Brookins. He also has all of the evidence he needs to prove his innocence. He has served over 15 years so far. Please look into his case. It would be absolutely amazing if you could help him as you did this deserving man.

  18. Joseph D.

    That’s AWESOME. I have a friend who is awaiting his soon freedom via the efforts of the Innocence Project and I have greatest deal of respect for you guyz.

  19. Shaneel

    Awesome job

  20. Ginger Masters

    Really

    • Ginger Masters

      Thats not what I wanted to say.
      What I wanted to say was this:
      I’m the wife of a murdered man.
      Father of my 7 children.
      David didn’t believe in the death penalty.
      He was a MO county district attorney.
      This is why I’ll never support the death penalty!

  21. Faustina jones

    I am proud to be a part of innocent project.org I would like to help as many as I can and I have a brother that need help as well maybe you can help me help my brother.

  22. Charlie Steven Kiker RN

    I love the irony of the police stating they had a confession after 14 min’s. and yet some policemen and women can get on the stand and lie under oath; DA’s don’t bother to honor the discovery motion and hide evidence and when the innocence of a person they put into prison is staring them in the face, they still want to fight the findings that would exhonerate Mr. Anthony Wright.
    I congratulate Mr. Wright, Ms. Nina Morrison, and all of the Innocence Project staff for all the hard everyone has done. I hope he is able to fight for monetary damages for himself and his family.
    As an RN, I advocate for patients everyday. This is not just lip service, for some reason, it has become a passion for me to question physicians and familys why so many test are redundant for the patient. Physicians don’t examine patients anymore, they just order test after test after test! It makes my anuerysm boil.
    As a member of the Innocence Project, from Texas,
    I love when a wrong is righted.
    After an Innocence Projelect fight.
    An innocent man goes home with his family
    every night

  23. Linda Gray

    I’m over in England and am overwhelmed by the work you carry out. Apart from the obvious injustice to these innocent people I also think about all the guilty parties that are roaming free because the wrong party has been convicted. I wonder how many innocent people we have in gaol in our country. Well done to all of you!

  24. Mary Cary Peterson

    Happy birthday, Anthony!

  25. Pattie Leonardis

    the wish Anthony Wright a Happy Birthday link is not working sooooo I’m writing it here.
    Happy Birthday Mr. Wright!

  26. Patricia Win

    Not enough people know how often this happens. Congratulations Mr. Wright ! I love the Innocence Project, what a great group they are ! My son, in Baltimore was falsely accused of sexual abuse of a minor. There was no evidence, just her word against his. My son is mentally ill. This hurt him terribly. The girl grew up and admitted the lie to a wonderful ex homicide commander from P.G.County,Md. Mike McQuillan, who heads a voice testing company. My son is only recently taken off the registry but his case is yet to be cleared.
    It can happen so quickly that someone makes a false accusation but it can and has taken a lifetime to get your name and life back. My son never had more than a traffic ticket before this happened. The media went crazy for this and wrongly maligned him again, with the exception of one truth telling newspaper, The Baltimore City Paper.

  27. Ben

    Does this man have a go fund me account or will he be getting the money he deserves? Not that there is an amount of money that could right this wrong but this man should never work again unless he chooses to. He should be able to do whatever he wants after being robbed of the best years of his life. I would be happy to donate to a go fund me account but I don’t know how it works. God bless you sir!

  28. I would be interested in volunteering to work however I can on this project.

    Hugh McNamara
    913-620=0468
    [email protected]

    Thanks

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