He was imprisoned for 37 years and was innocent: a witness now admitted that he had lied in exchange for drugs and sex.

source: www.arabnews.pk

He was imprisoned for 37 years and was innocent: a witness now admitted that he had lied in exchange for drugs and sex.

Willie Stokes had been convicted of a murder he had not committed in Pennsylvania. Now a court overturned his sentence.

A Philadelphia man was released from jail Monday, 37 years after being convicted of the murder of a woman, a charge he has vehemently denied, and after a federal court found that prosecutors suppressed evidence of the perjury. Provided by a critical witness, reported the Prosecutor's Office.

Willie Stokes' release comes after the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania overturned his murder conviction last week, concluding that the state violated Stokes' constitutional rights by "hiding" crucial evidence. According to court documents, the false testimony of a critical witness in the case.

The court ordered Stokes to be tried again within 120 days or released. The Philadelphia Prosecution acknowledged that the suppressed evidence undermined the legal basis of the charge and "fatally undermined confidence" in Stokes' conviction.

Stokes is expected to appear in court on January 27, when the district attorney's office will likely report its final decision to dismiss the matter or retry him, his attorney Michael Diamondstein said in an interview Monday.

"This afternoon, he has breathed for the first time in freedom in almost 40 years, and he is pleased and humbled," Diamondstein said, adding that Stokes' first wish after his release was to go "for a corned beef hoagie. ".

On Monday, the prosecutor of the district of Philadelphia, Larry Krasner, acknowledged that the "extraordinary" case Stokes was part of the bad police practices and prosecutors that were ubiquitous" during the so-called 80 and 90 toughs on crime, and that unfortunately persist in too many jurisdictions today, "he said in a press release.

"Prosecutors must seek justice and redefine the success of the prosecution, not because of 'victories' in the form of convictions, but because of precision and fairness in the resolution of investigations and criminal proceedings," he adds to the declaration.

Krasner pointed out that Stokes' legal ordeal of nearly four decades - during which he presented numerous appeals and appeals to annul his conviction, only to be rejected on procedural grounds - underscored "the urgency of the criminal legal system that seeks justice for above the purpose."

Until late November, the US District Court in Pennsylvania agreed to hold a hearing. After reviewing the evidence, Judge Carol Sandra Moore Wells concluded that for 37 years, prosecutors did not reveal to Stokes or his defense attorneys that Franklin Lee, the key witness who charged him with murder, had admitted that his testimony was a lie and that he had been convicted of perjury for it, and Stokes was entitled to redress.

In 1984, Lee was in jail facing murder and rape charges when he was approached by two homicide detectives who offered him "sex, drugs and a deal "in exchange for indicting Stokes, according to his testimony in November.

"They said he would not be more than two to five, seven years at most," he said.

Lee added that to help persuade him to testify against Stokes, detectives allowed his girlfriend to meet him privately at police headquarters. He said detectives provided him with condoms and a sex worker on another occasion.

The two detectives, Lawrence Gerrard and Ernest Gilbert have faced accusations of using similar "coercive methods" to obtain false testimony from witnesses in other cases, court documents show.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the allegations first emerged more than 30 years ago when a federal judge overturned Arthur Lester's conviction, who said Gilbert and Gerrard used those tactics to coerce his confession. At least five other men remain in prison for sentences tainted by similar claims.

During Stokes' preliminary hearing in 1984, Lee claimed that Stokes was at his "home drinking, smoking and gambling, "In his basement, he admitted to killing Leslie Campbell in North Philadelphia, according to court documents.

There was no other evidence linking Stokes directly to the crime. A second surviving victim of the shooting attack testified that Stokes was not the shooter. Only one eyewitness reported seeing Stokes at the crime scene with a gun in hand but not firing.

But during Stokes' murder trial, Lee shockingly retracted his testimony, which prosecutors say was not credible given his criminal record.

However, on August 21, 1984, a jury convicted Stokes of first-degree murder and possession of a criminal instrument and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Soon after, Lee was also charged with perjury for his false testimony at the hearing. But that information was never disclosed to Stokes, who could have used it for his defense and appeal litigation.

Stokes took decades to discover that the Philadelphia District Attorney had indicted Lee for falsely accusing him.

During the November hearing, Lee, 62, testified that his initial statement given to police and at the preliminary hearing implicating Stokes in Campbell's murder was false.

"Mr. Lee, did Willie Stokes ever tell you that he killed Leslie Campbell? "Asked Diamondstein, lawyer Stokes to Lee in the audience of November.

"No," he replied.

"Did Willie Stokes ever tell you that he had committed a murder? Asked the lawyer.

"No," he replied.

Following his testimony, Lee apologized to Stokes - who had been listening by teleconference from Chester State Correctional Institution.

"And I would like, for the record, if I can, to apologize to Mr. Stokes and the family for the trouble I have caused, sincerely," he said.

Stokes's attorney advised him not to respond.

"For the record, she's crying," said the district court judge Moore. "I will consider that your tears indicate that you accept the apology ."

After the hearing, Moore recommended that Stokes's conviction be overturned, considering a "reasonable probability" that Stokes would have been acquitted without Lee's testimony, and concluded that the trial verdict was "therefore unreliable ."

"What happened here was an abomination," Diamondstein said. "For too many years, Philadelphia law enforcement has treated blacks and browns as expendable, and this case is a stark reminder that it has to end," he added.

Stokes was released from the State Correctional Institution on Monday afternoon.