A man wrongly convicted of murder is finally free after serving 27 years behind bars.
Willie Veasy, 54, stepped out of a Philadelphia courthouse Wednesday with his family by his side after a judge ruled he was innocent in the 1992 shooting death of John Lewis and threw out his sentence of life without parole.
‘I get to walk out of here the same way I walked in,’ Veasy said. ‘An innocent man.’
Veasy’s release made it the tenth exoneration since District Attorney Larry Krasner took office last year and pledged to help reverse wrongful murder convictions through his Conviction Integrity unit.
Prosecutors now believe that the written confession Veasy signed in 1992 was coerced by two homicide detectives who had a ‘pattern and practice’ of forcing false confessions out of suspects.
Willie Veasy, 54, stepped out of a Philadelphia courthouse Wednesday a free man after serving 27 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit
A judge ruled he was innocent in the 1992 shooting death of John Lewis and threw out his sentence of life without parole
Veasy hugged his sister, Ketra Veasy, after exiting the Center for Criminal Justice as a free man. She was just 12 when he was sentenced
Those two officers, Martin Devlin and Paul Worrell, are now retired and the unit is investigating if they had committed misconduct in Veasy’s case or others.
Veasy’s release made it the tenth exoneration since District Attorney Larry Krasner took office last year
‘Innocent people shouldn’t be sitting in jail cells,’ Krasner said at a news conference after Veasy was freed. ‘It’s not that hard. The system should be just. It should be fair.’
An investigation found that Devlin and Worrell acted questionably in the overturned case of Anthony Wright as well.
Wright said that Devlin assaulted him before forcing him to falsely confess to raping and killing a neighbor.
He was acquitted in a retrial in 2016 after DNA pointed to a different man.
Wright showed up Wednesday to the courthouse to support Veasy as he was being released.
‘Ain’t none of us free til all of us free!’ Wright said.
‘We are reviewing these cases extremely carefully,’ Krasner said. ‘We are not trying to play politics with these cases. We are not trying to be on any side. We are simply trying to complete our obligation, which is to seek justice.’
Common Pleas Court Judge Leon W. Tucker told Veasy, ‘You’re a free man’ as she agreed to toss out his case and prosecutors dropped all charged against him.
Veasy’s defense argued at the time of his trial that he was at work at a restaurant as a dishwasher miles away during the murder.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, prosecutors sought to discredit the alibi as less than airtight.
One of Veasy’s former restaurant coworkers, Seth Schram, 54, attended Wednesday’s hearing.
He had testified at the trial, saying, ‘There’s no way’ that Veasy wasn’t at work at the time of the killing.
‘I didn’t see it coming but I believed this day would come, I really did. I was able to hold on to my sanity for years and with family like this, that’s all you need,’ Veasy said
Ketra Veasy, center, sister of Willie Veasy, celebrated along with Celeste Trusty of FAMM, right, and Debra Chappell as they exited court following Veasy’s exoneration
The evidence against Veasy at the time also included an eyewitness who said she saw Veasy participate in the killing, even though she admitted to having poor eyesight.
It took a jury four days to convict Veasy of second-degree murder in 1993, sentencing him to life without parole.
No one else was ever charged in the crime.
Last year Krasner vowed to transform the District Attorney’s Office and appointed Patricia Cummings to lead the Conviction Integrity Unit.
In 22 months, the unit has reviewed requests involving about 200 cases which have led to ten exoneration.
While more most cases have been left in tact, investigators found that 5percent of those cases were riddled with major errors.
‘Mr Veasy and his loved ones deserve all the joy that his freedom brings, but this is no moment of triumph for the City of Philadelphia,’ Krasner said.
‘A guilty man went free almost 30 years ago, and an apparently innocent man went to jail thanks to a law enforcement culture at that time that placed a higher priority on winning cases than it did on doing justice or upholding the Constitution’
Veasy said: ‘I didn’t see it coming but I believed this day would come, I really did. I was able to hold on to my sanity for years and with family like this, that’s all you need.’