Three former Philly officers charged for role in Black man’s 25-year wrongful imprisonment
The police officers were arrested for perjury
Three former Philadelphia police officers, Frank Jastrzembski, Manuel Santiago and Martin Devlin, have been arrested and charged for perjury after their testimonies led to the wrongful conviction of an innocent Black man. They were also charged with false swearing.
In 1993, then 20-year-old Anthony Wright was convicted of the 1991 rape and murder of 77-year-old Louise Talley. He served 25 years in prison for the crime.
According to the US News and World Report, Wright signed a false handwritten confession provided by the detectives who prevented him from reading it first. The confession was signed less than 24 hours after Mrs. Talley’s body was discovered. When he repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, he was told by the detectives that he would only be allowed to go home if he signed the confession.
Wright’s interrogation by Santiago and Devlin “was not recorded or taped,” Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said.
According to the reports, Wright repeatedly told detectives he had no involvement or knowledge of the crime and spent hours crying for his mother, whom he could hear outside the interrogation room screaming for him.
Krasner said that one of the detectives, Jastrzembski, testified to the jury that he found clothing items in Wright’s bedroom that connected him to the crime, but it was later revealed that the clothing items, which belonged to Talley, were actually found inside of her home.
DNA evidence was discovered decades later that connected another man, Ronnie Byrd, to the crime. Although DNA placed a different man at the scene, prosecutors still pushed for a retrial in 2016, claiming that more evidence had resurfaced placing Wright at the scene as an accomplice.
The jury deliberated in less than an hour before acquitting Wright of all charges in 2016.
District Attorney Larry Krasner released a statement revealing the findings of the investigation, referring to Wright as an innocent man.
“The 31st Philadelphia County Investigating Grand Jury has heard evidence and has issued a presentment in which they recommend criminal prosecution of three former Philadelphia Police Homicide Detectives for lying in 2016 both in and out of court about their on-duty roles in the investigation, interrogation, and wrongful conviction of an innocent man, Anthony Wright, which occurred in 1993. Eventually, Mr. Wright’s innocence was proven by DNA evidence that also identified the actual perpetrator of the crime, Ronnie Byrd. Wright’s wrongful conviction was overturned, but incredibly the Philadelphia DAO under former DA Seth Williams re-tried him despite irrefutable science establishing Wright’s innocence. The three detectives provided sworn testimony and documentation during the 2016 re-trial (where he was acquitted) and in Wright’s subsequent, successful civil rights lawsuit. Some of the sworn testimony and documentation these detectives provided form the basis for criminal charges,” Krasner said.
Wright reportedly settled a lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia for $9.85M.
Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!