PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – A man who served nearly three decades in prison for a triple killing in Philadelphia in what prosecutors called a “perfect storm” of injustice was freed after a judge threw out his conviction.
“Theophalis Wilson, you are free to go,” Judge Tracy Brandeis-Roman said Tuesday as extended family and friends who packed the courtroom cried and hugged each other, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“This is a great day,” said Wilson, 48, who served 28 years in prison. “Now we've got to go back and get the other guys. There’s a lot of innocent people in jail.”
“It’s a beautiful day,” said his mother, Kim Wilson. “I just thank God it finally happened.”
Wilson was exonerated a month after his co-defendant, Christopher Williams, was cleared of the three 1989 killings. Wilson was a teenager when he was accused of participating in the slayings of Otis Reynolds and brothers Kevin and Gavin Anderson in north Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia district attorney's office called the case a “perfect storm” of injustice, writing in a court filing that the case was marred by serious misconduct by the prosecution, an ineffective defense and a witness who supplied false testimony.
The witness who testified against Wilson and Williams recanted, saying he had provided false testimony in exchange for a deal to escape the death penalty and in hopes of eventual release. At a 2013 hearing, forensic specialists testified that physical evidence contradicted his earlier account of events.
Williams remains imprisoned on a life sentence in a fourth murder, a 1989 slaying in which he and another man were convicted but in which both have maintained their innocence.
Wilson is the 12th person exonerated by the prosecutor's Conviction Integrity Unit. Unit chief Patricia Cummings said in court that it was time for Wilson to be allowed to “go home a free man, and that he go home with an apology."
“No words can express what we put these people through. What we put Mr. Wilson through. What we put his family through,” she said.