A Philadelphia man who served 37 years in prison was cleared on Thursday in a 1980 murder case that was tainted by perjured testimony and he promptly sued the city over his conviction.
Willie Stokes left prison this month after a federal judge overturned his conviction. At a court hearing Thursday, city prosecutors said they would not retry him.
Stokes' lawyers say that prosecutors at the time never disclosed they had charged his chief accuser with perjury after the trial. The 60-year-old Stokes says he is not bitter and is "just excited to move forward" with his life.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office said that prosecutors were aware of the lie that a witness told in a statement accusing Stokes of confessing to the crime. Philadelphia homicide detectives working on the case at the time are accused of threatening that witness and bribing them with sex and drugs, the paper reported.
Matthew Stiegler, a supervisor of the District Attorney’s federal litigation unit said, “After a thorough and independent review, the federal court determined that Mr. Stokes was the victim of an egregious violation of his constitutional rights, and we are convinced that the federal court’s ruling was correct.”
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Stokes was previously convicted in the 1980 fatal shooting of a man named Leslie Campbell, during a dice game in North Philadelphia.
District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a January statement, “This remarkable case is marked by prosecutorial and policing practices that were too pervasive during the so-called tough-on-crime 1980s and 1990s, and unfortunately persist in far too many jurisdictions today.”