According to CBS Philadelphia, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner made an announcement on Friday, Aug. 13, that three former Philadelphia homicide detectives, who are now retired, are facing criminal charges, including perjury because they took part in false testimony in relation to a retrial of Anthony Wright, an innocent Black man who was falsely imprisoned for 25 years.
Krasner revealed that a grand jury had recommended criminal charges be filed against former homicide detectives Manuel Santiago, Martin Devlin, and Frank Jastrzembski, based on the details of their testimony in the 2016 retrial of Wright. Wright’s 1993 conviction for the rape and murder of an elderly woman was vacated on the basis of DNA evidence discovered back in 2014.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has approved and commenced prosecution for the following charges:
“Manuel Santiago is charged with 2 counts of Perjury and 2 counts of False Swearing for false testimony regarding the Santiago/Devlin Confession at the 2016 retrial and 2017 deposition; and 1 count of Perjury and 1 count of False Swearing for false testimony regarding prior knowledge of the DNA results clearing Wright at the 2016 retrial.
“Martin Devlin is charged with 2 counts of Perjury and 2 counts of False Swearing for false testimony regarding the Santiago/Devlin Confession at the 2016 retrial and 2017 deposition.
“Frank Jastrzembski is charged with 2 counts of Perjury and 2 counts of False Swearing for false testimony regarding the search of Wright’s bedroom at the 2016 retrial and 2017 deposition; and 1 count of Perjury and 1 count of False Swearing for false testimony regarding prior knowledge of the DNA results clearing Wright at the 2016 retrial.”
“These charges are an indication that a Philadelphia jury, in this case, a grand jury, can carefully look at evidence and can understand that the law must apply equally to people, whether they are in law enforcement, or supposed to be served by law enforcement,” Krasner said.
The charges came after a grand jury report that stated that Santiago and Martin had coerced a then 20-year-old Wright, into signing a false confession that had him admitting to the raping and killing of 77-year-old Louise Talley back in 1991. The report stated that Jastrzembski lied when he stated that he went to Wright’s home and found clothes that Wright had worn during the crime; but, instead, the clothes were worn by the victim.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that in recent years, the three detectives’ investigative practices have been questioned as Krasner’s Conviction Integrity Unit has revealed inconsistencies that have helped overturn at least five cases the detectives had previously worked on. They have stated that the convictions were warped by coerced confessions, fabricated or hidden evidence, or secret deals with key witnesses.
Wright settled a lawsuit against the city for $9.8 million in 2018. He was facing a death sentence and served 25 years.
According to the Innocence Project “lawyers presented DNA evidence proving the innocence of Anthony Wright and pointing to the real assailant, a Philadelphia jury acquitted Wright of the 1991 rape and murder of Louise Talley on Aug. 23, 2016, 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.”