PHIADELPHIA, PA – A man was freed Tuesday after spending 37 years in prison in a case in which detectives allegedly arranged sex and drugs for a key witness.
Willie Stokes, 61, was freed from a Pennsylvania state prison near Philadelphia after being convicted of murder in 1984 following an investigation by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office which found Stokes did not receive due process, CBS 3 reported. A federal court threw out Stokes’ conviction last month.
“Today is a tremendous day. We’re all very thankful,” Stokes’ lawyer, Michael Diamondstein, told the Associated Press. “However, it’s also a sad day, because it reminds us of how lawless, unfair and unjust Philadelphia law enforcement was for so long.”
A key witness in Stokes’ case, Franklin Lee, was allegedly offered sex and drugs by Philadelphia police in exchange for false testimony, the AP reported. Police allegedly arranged for Lee’s girlfriend to visit to have sex with him, to bring him marijuana and opioids and to provide Lee with a prostitute after his girlfriend refused the plan.
Lee confessed to providing false testimony, and he was later charged with perjury just days after Stokes’ conviction, according to the AP. However, Stokes was not informed of Lee’s confession until 2015.
“The homicide prosecutors that used Franklin Lee’s testimony to convict Willie Stokes then prosecuted Franklin Lee for lying on Willie Stokes. And they never told Willie Stokes,” Diamondstein said at a hearing before the federal court, the AP reported.
Krasner’s office has not yet decided whether to retry Stokes on murder charges, the AP reported.
“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,” Krasner said in a statement Tuesday. “Prosecutors have an obligation to seek justice, and to redefine prosecutorial success – not by ‘wins’ in the form of convictions, but by accuracy and fairness in resolving criminal investigations and prosecutions.”
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