AP NEWS

Man freed after 28 years in prison after conviction vacated

January 22, 2020 GMT
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Theophalis Wilson, with friends and family behind him, walks out of the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, after being exonerated for a triple murder that took place when he was 17 years old, for which he served 21 years in prison. (Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
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Theophalis Wilson, with friends and family behind him, walks out of the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, after being exonerated for a triple murder that took place when he was 17 years old, for which he served 21 years in prison. (Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man who served nearly three decades in prison for a Philadelphia triple murder has been freed after a judge threw out his conviction.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Common Pleas Court Judge Tracy Brandeis-Roman on Tuesday said “Theophalis Wilson, you are free to go,” as extended family and friends who packed the courtroom cried and hugged each other.

“This is a great day,” Wilson said after his release Tuesday afternoon. “Now we gotta 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, who had served 28 years, was exonerated a month after his co-defendant, Christopher Williams, was cleared of the three 1989 killings. Wilson, now 48 years old, 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 later 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 (CIU). 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.