Tyrone Jones has been in prison since May 1973, for a murder that, based on the following facts alleged in his post-conviction petition, was committed by someone else. That May, when Tyrone was 16 years old, he was arrested for the murder of Henry Harrison, known as “Country”. Harrison was shot at around 8:40 p.m. in North Philadelphia in a gang-related execution, in front of numerous witnesses. A flash description went out over police radio indicating that there were two perpetrators, one of whom was wearing a red skull cap. Although police estimate that between 30 and 60 people were on the scene when they arrived, none of the witnesses were ever named. Tyrone was arrested shortly after the murder outside his home, about 9 blocks from the crime, because he was wearing a red skull cap even though the described shooter was half a foot taller than he. When Tyrone was arrested, he had a .25 caliber firearm in his back waistband.
Tyrone was interrogated by police about the murder shortly after his arrest. In response to their questioning, Tyrone told the detectives he “shot at the boy about four times” using the same gun police took from him when he was arrested. Tellingly, although police believed Tyrone knew the victim, the names Henry Harrison or Country never appear in Tyrone’s statements; the victim is referred to only as “the boy.” According to police, Tyrone said he was with his friend Michael Long when he shot “the boy.” Police then interrogated Long, who gave a similar statement, confirming that Tyrone used a .25 caliber gun. About 12 hours after Tyrone was first interrogated, while he remained in police custody, police received autopsy results. According to the autopsy findings, Harrison was killed with a .22 caliber bullet, which could not have been fired by Tyrone’s.25 caliber weapon. Police re-interrogated Tyrone. This time, Tyrone said that Long also had a gun, a “back bored out starter pistol.” When Long was questioned again, he said that he had a .22 caliber gun and that he also shot at “the boy”.
No eyewitness ever identified either Tyrone or Long as a perpetrator. The person who was with Harrison when he was shot died before trial. The police conducted no further investigation after taking statements from Tyrone and Long. They apparently never went back to any of the 30-60 eyewitnesses to the killing to verify what Tyrone or Long had said. They never even went back to the neighborhood or told the victim’s family they had a suspect. Jones was convicted and sentenced to life based solely on his own statements, which did not match the facts of the crime. (Charges against Long were eventually dismissed as the trial court ruled that the Commonwealth could not use his statements against him at trial due to the failure of police to abide by constitutional protections.)
Pennsylvania Innocence Project staff members found and spoke with four eye-witnesses to Harrison’s murder who remember particular details from that night. All four state without hesitation that they did not see Tyrone Jones anywhere in the area during the crime.
In May 2011, the Project filed a PCRA Petition on behalf of Mr. Jones, and in August 2011, we filed an amended petition. On this case, we are lucky to be joined as co-counsel by Cozen O’Connor partner Hayes Hunt and several Cozen associates. Mr. Jones’s petition has not yet been assigned to a judge.
In August 1995, Thomas Keal was shot at around 2:30 a.m. as he left the seafood store that he owned. Two men approached Mr. Keal with guns, attempted to rob him, and then shot and killed him. Tragically, Mr. Keal’s own daughter saw her father killed from her second-story window across the street. She saw the perpetrators for a few seconds. At the time of the crime, Ms. Keal was unable to identify anyone in photo arrays shown her by police. For two years, the case went unsolved.
In 1997, detectives approached Ms. Keal again and showed her more photo arrays. This time, over two years after her father’s murder, Ms. Keal identified two men who lived in her neighborhood, one of whom was Eugene Gilyard. There was no evidence tying Mr. Gilyard to the murder other than Ms. Keal’s identification. Mr. Gilyard was convicted, and is currently serving a life sentence for the murder.
In March 2011, Mr. Gilyard learned that Ricky Welborn, imprisoned on other charges, had acknowledged that he had killed Thomas Keal. In June 2011, staff from the Pennsylvania Innocence Project met with Mr. Welborn and took a detailed written statement from him confessing to the Keal murder. Project staff members also recently uncovered three eyewitnesses who corroborated Mr. Welborn’s confession. The accounts provided by Mr. Welborn and the additional witnesses are consistent with the events as described by Ms. Keal, down to the type of weapon used.
In August 2011, the Project filed a PCRA petition on Mr. Gilyard’s behalf and sent a letter to the DA’s office, co-signed by the victim’s daughter, Ms. Keal, asking the DA’s office and the Philadelphia Police Department to reinvestigate Mr. Keal’s murder. Our co-counsel on Mr. Gilyard’s behalf is Frank DeSimone, a member of our Advisory Board. The case has not yet been assigned a judge.
On October 8, 1996, Anthony G. Mullen was murdered in a parking lot near Amtrak 30th Street Station where he worked as an attendant. Police had no witnesses, no leads, no idea who committed the crime. Not until February 1997, that is, when David Williams was arrested on suspicion of having committed a string of armed robberies. Williams asked to speak with a homicide detective he knew, saying that he had information about the Mullen murder and who committed it. Williams told police that John Miller had confessed to him to having killed Mullen. Williams then provided detectives with convincing details about the crime. Based on the information provided by Williams, detectives interviewed 17-year-old Mike Arnold, who corroborated certain parts of Williams’ story by saying that he saw Mr. Miller pick up a gun on the street days before the murder.
On June 24, 1997, John Miller was arrested for the parking lot murder of Anthony Mullen. Called by the Commonwealth to testify at the preliminary hearing and trial, Williams recanted his statement to police, saying that Miller had never, in fact, confessed to him. Nonetheless, police were allowed to read into evidence Williams’ statement. That out of court statement and Arnold’s testimony—with no corroborating physical evidence of guilt—was all of the evidence that convicted John Miller of second degree murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on December 15, 1998.
Both witnesses have since come forward to say that their testimony at trial was false. Not surprisingly, David Williams now admits that he knew about the murder because he is the one who committed it. Moreover, after speaking with Pennsylvania Innocence Project investigators, Mike Arnold signed an affidavit stating that he lied when he testified against Miller and that his story about the gun was false. On July 18, 2011, Williams gave staff members from The Pennsylvania Innocence Project a detailed statement in which he confessed that he tried to rob Mullen and then shot him, although not intentionally. In his statement, Williams acknowledged that, by confessing to killing Mullen, he could be subjecting himself to the death penalty or life imprisonment, but he was making the statement nevertheless because he was consumed with guilt for falsely implicating Miller in this crime.
Mr. Miller’s case is assigned to Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Domingo Martinez was murdered on the morning of November 13, 1990, while delivering $25,000 to one of his check-cashing stores in Northeast Philadelphia. When Martinez was murdered, Shaurn Thomas was in juvenile court in Center City, having been arrested the night before for attempting to steal a motorcycle. Although he was nowhere near the scene of the murder, four years later Shaurn was convicted of having participated in the Martinez murder. Shaurn is still serving the life sentence he received after his conviction.
The night before the murder, on November 12, 1990, at about 11:30 p.m., Shaurn Thomas was arrested in Philadelphia for attempted theft of a motorcycle. Shaurn was held in police custody until sometime around dawn November 13, 1990, when his mother came to the station and signed for his release. Shaurn and his mother then went straight to the Youth Study Center on the Parkway for an intake interview at 9:00 a.m. After the interview, Shaurn signed a subpoena and was released. His sister had to come get him, and they both arrived home sometime in the afternoon of November 13, 1990.
That same morning, Domingo Martinez picked up $25,000 cash from a Mellon Bank branch at Ridge and Spring Garden Streets in Philadelphia. Numerous witnesses said that at about 9:55 a.m., at 6th and Lehigh, a car driving behind Martinez struck Martinez’s car on the driver’s side. When Martinez stopped his car, three men got out of the striking vehicle. One of the men shot Martinez through his car’s front windshield. Witnesses told police that the shooter then pulled Martinez from his car, left him on the street, and drove the victim’s car away. The other two men climbed back into the striking car and drove away. At least four people witnessed the murder. They described the striking car as white on the bottom and red on top. None of the witnesses was ever asked to identify Shaurn or any of the other alleged participants or the car that was supposedly used in the crime. None of the eyewitnesses testified at Shaurn’s trial.
Early in 1991, Philadelphia Police Homicide investigators got a tip from an unknown source that Domingo Martinez was killed by a gang of young men known as the “G-Boys” who lived in Abbotsford Homes, a public housing project in North Philadelphia. On February 8, 1991, police took a blue 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic into custody, thinking it was the car used in the Martinez murder, even though every witness had described the car as white and red.
On February 8, 1992, Nathaniel Stallworth, who had open criminal cases and sought favorable treatment from police and prosecutors, provided a detailed statement to Homicide detectives concerning the Martinez murder. Nathaniel Stallworth claimed that six men—Clayton “Mustafa” Thomas, Clayton’s brother Shaurn Thomas, Nathaniel Stallworth’s own cousins, John and William Stallworth, and two “unknown males”—were the ones who robbed and killed Domingo Martinez.
On October 27, 1992, Nathaniel’s cousin John Stallworth was arrested on an unrelated robbery charge. In attempting to obtain the best outcome for himself, John Stallworth told police that he had information on the Martinez murder. Like his cousin Nathaniel, John Stallworth told police that six men, including him, committed the crime. But, unlike his cousin, he named different men. According to John Stallworth, the perpetrators were himself, his brother William Stallworth, Mustafa and Shaurn Thomas, Louis Gay, and a man named “Nasir.” John Stallworth told police that they drove in two cars, a blue four-door car and a gray four-door car, when they robbed Martinez. He claimed that Louis Gay entered the bank and returned a short time later following Domingo Martinez. The two cars followed Martinez. Somewhere in North Philadelphia, the gray car, with Shaurn Thomas in the back seat, cut in front of Martinez’s car to box it in. Mustafa, driving the blue car, rammed into Martinez’s car then walked up to the driver’s side of the victim’s car and shot Martinez.
Even though police later discovered that Louis Gay was in prison on the day of the murder and could therefore not have participated in the crime, they continued to believe John Stallworth’s version of events. They got a second statement from John Stallworth in July 1993, in which he now claimed that Gay was not involved but that an “unknown friend” of Mustafa Thomas was the sixth man, and the person who had entered the bank initially. John Stallworth agreed to testify against Shaurn and Mustafa Thomas and his brother William and to plead guilty to third degree murder in return for a sentence of eight to sixteen years. On July 29, 1993, police charged Shaurn Thomas with the murder of Domingo Martinez.
Although the information from the Stallworths differed significantly from what police knew from the eyewitnesses, it became the basis for the evidence against Shaurn and his brother Mustafa. Where the witnesses all said there was only one car, the Stallworths said there were two. Where the witnesses all described a white and red car, neither car described by the Stallworth brothers fit that description. Where the witnesses described three men as the perpetrators, the Stallworths claimed there were six.
Arrested three years after the murder, Shaurn had little confirming evidence of where he was at the time of the crime. He had his signed subpoena, but the prosecutor argued to the jury that there was no proof the signature was, in fact, Shaurn’s. The jury never heard from Shaurn’s mother or his sister or the court administrator who worked with his family that fateful day. On December 19, 1994, Shaurn Thomas was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life without parole. He was 20 years old.
In August 2011, James Figorski, a lawyer at the firm of Dechert LLP and a former Philadelphia police officer, filed a a PCRA petition on Mr. Thomas’s behalf with The Pennsylvania Innocence Project as co-counsel. The petition is pending assignment to a judge.
Proof of Innocence Gains Prisoner Release After 28 years
On July 14, 2010 Kenneth Granger was released from prison after serving 28 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Mr. Granger was convicted on the basis of erroneous eyewitness testimony, and for nearly 30 years law enforcement officials suppressed evidence that would have proved he did not commit the murder.
To understand the strange history of the case, it is important to understand the events that culminated in the July 14 hearing in the Court of Common Pleas that led to Mr. Granger’s release. In 2009, Mr. Granger’s family asked attorney Karl Schwartz of the Defender Association of Philadelphia to review Mr. Granger’s case and establish his innocence. As the investigation progressed, Mr. Schwartz was joined by Assistant Defender Ellen McBennett and David Rudovsky from the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. Mr. Schwartz initially sought disclosure of the homicide investigation file and, over the objection of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, Judge Earl Trent of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas ordered the disclosure. When Mr. Granger’s attorneys reviewed the homicide investigation file, as well as the District Attorney’s own file and the Police Department Internal Affairs files, they discovered critical evidence of Mr. Granger’s innocence, including the fact that an eyewitness had actually identified someone else as the person who committed the murder.
Based on this evidence, Mr. Granger’s attorneys asked the court to grant him a new trial. The DA opposed this request. However, as the evidence of Mr. Granger’s innocence and official misconduct in the case continued to build, the DA offered a “deal” that would have allowed Mr. Granger to plead guilty to third degree murder and get a “time-served” sentence. Mr. Granger refused to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit, but realizing it could be years before he could win a new trial, he agreed to a “no contest” plea. On July 14, he told the Court that he was entering the no contest plea solely to get out of prison now – after 28 long years – rather than waiting in prison for the legal process to run its course and possibly grant him a new trial. At 57 years of age, he had no other rational decision. Mr. Granger is now free.
The evidence shows clearly that he is innocent. The victim in Mr. Granger’s case was killed near a neighborhood bar, and there were several eyewitnesses. When the police questioned the eyewitnesses, their descriptions of the perpetrator differed in a number of respects on matters of height, color and physical features. One of the eyewitnesses was a barmaid who said she could identify the perpetrator. When the police showed her a group of photos that included a photo of Mr. Granger, she selected someone other than Mr. Granger as the perpetrator. No one ever disclosed this favorable evidence to the defense even though the Commonwealth’s trial file included the photograph of the person the barmaid identified as the perpetrator, with his name and the name of the witness, the date of her identification and the term “Positive ID.” Incredibly, at Mr. Granger’s trial, a police detective falsely testified that the barmaid “did not pick out anyone in particular” after reviewing photos. This key fact, that she identified someone else, was suppressed for 30 years.
At trial, the case against Mr. Granger was based solely on the identification testimony of three other witnesses. One, the bar owner, testified that the perpetrator was “much, much shorter” than Mr. Granger and that he could not identify Mr. Granger. Another witness, who viewed the shooting from more than 130 feet away, attended a lineup that included Mr. Granger, but picked out someone else as the perpetrator. The final witness, an off-duty police officer, had failed to identify Mr. Granger in a photo array shortly after the murder, but falsely testified at trial that he had never been shown a photograph of Mr. Granger. In the course of their investigation, the Defender’s Association and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project obtained Police Department Internal Affairs documentation (not available at the trial) that showed that the off-duty police officer had already been suspended for misconduct once, and was being investigated in a related shooting. In light of this information, the Commonwealth acknowledged, the witness had a strong “motive to falsely accuse” Mr. Granger.
The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly instructed police and prosecutors that they have a constitutional duty to disclose evidence favorable to the accused. In this case, that principle was ignored. With all this evidence of Mr. Granger’s innocence finally displayed in public view, Mr. Granger is now a free man.
Innocence Project Seeks New Trial for Man Convicted of Arson
On February 14, 1995, the City of Pittsburgh suffered a tremendous loss when 3 firefighters died while trying to put out a fire at a home on Bricelyn Street. Three families lost fathers, sons, a mother and daughter. Within hours of the flames being put out, and without having conducted a complete investigation into accidental causes, the ATF determined the fire started in the basement, and that it was arson. Although 13 samples were sent to Washington to test for possible accelerants used to set the fire, only 2 came back positive for the presence of gasoline (not surprising, as there was a gas-powered lawn mower in the basement). Ten months later, with no evidence to support any arrests, ATF offered a $15,000 reward for anyone with information about who may have set the fire. A week later, a neighbor walked in to ATF offices, saying that he saw Greg Brown, a 17-year old who lived at the house, outside the home before the fire trucks arrived. A few months later, a bunkmate of Greg’s told ATF that Greg told him he’d set the fire. With no other evidence of arson, Greg was prosecuted and convicted and is serving 3 consecutive life sentences for setting the fire and causing the deaths of the firefighters.
Journalists from the Innocence Institute began looking into Greg’s case, and discovered some very disturbing information. First, Gerald Hurst, a leading expert in fire dynamics, reviewed all of the materials from the case and determined that the fire was not likely arson, but the result of a natural gas leak. Then, the journalists learned that 2 years after the trial, ATF paid 2 of their witnesses cash: one received $5000, and the other $10,000. As the trial was ongoing, the government denied that any witnesses were receiving anything in exchange for their testimony. One of those witnesses—Greg’s former bunkmate—told the journalists that he had a deal to get $15,000 but only got $5,000, confirming at least one of the payments.
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project agreed to represent Greg in his quest for a new trial. With local counsel David Fawcett of Reed Smith, the Project filed a Petition for a New Trial which is pending before the Honorable Joseph Williams of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
Innocence Project Petitions for Review of Wrongful Conviction in Rape Case
Marshall Hale was convicted in 1986 of raping a 14 year-old girl at gunpoint in an abandoned building in North Philadelphia, even though forensic evidence presented at his trial established his innocence. The girl initially described her attacker to police as an African-American male, 30-35 years old, about 6’ tall, weighing approximately 180 pounds, and having a light complexion. Marshall is 5’6” tall, dark skinned, and at the time was 21 and weighed about 145 pounds. After viewing over 100 slides at the Police Administration Building a month after the attack, the girl said that Marshall’s picture “looked like” the man who attacked her. A detective wrote at the time she made a “possible identification.” Two days later, at 1 am, detectives went to the girl’s house with a photo array and asked her to “pick out the same picture you did before.” The victim selected Marshall’s picture.
At the trial, the girl positively and surely identified Marshall as the man who raped her, even though she said he looked “older” the day she was attacked. Technicians from the Philadelphia Police Department testified that the blood type of semen in the rape kit could not be determined, but the girl’s panties and blouse were stained with blood and semen, and that blood typing tests results showed the samples were type “B.” The victim was type “O”, and that Marshall’s blood type was “A.” Even after hearing testimony, in response to a question from the judge, that a person with type A blood could not leave behind something of type B, the jury found Marshall guilty within 3 hours.
On appeal, Marshall’s conviction was upheld. When he asked for DNA testing on the physical evidence, the Commonwealth responded that the samples were not available, believing they had been “destroyed.” Although no testimony was ever taken on that issue, the court denied Marshall’s request.
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project sent the lab reports from Marshall’s case to Larry Presley, Director of the Forensic Science program at Arcadia University and former head of the FBI DNA Analysis Unit. Professor Presley not only verified that Marshall could not have left behind the samples on the blouse and panties, but also concluded that Marshall could not have contributed to the semen found in the rape kit. Based upon this evidence the Project, along with co-counsel Patricia McKinney of McKinney and George, filed a petition for Marshall, asking that his case be dismissed or he be granted a new trial.
In May, 2010, when the Project filed the petition, we sent a copy directly to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams with a letter explaining the case and asking that he authorize an independent investigation. No reply was ever received. In December, 2010, after the case was assigned by Judge Geniece Brinkley, the Commonwealth asked for additional time to have the case reviewed by its own expert. A status date was set for February 2, 2011.
Richard C. Glazer
Marissa Boyers Bluestine
Board of Directors
David Richman, President
David Rudovsky, Vice President
Jennifer R. Clarke, Secretary
Anthony B. Creamer, Treasurer
Paul D. Brandes
Caroline Goldner Cinquanto
J. Gordon Cooney, Jr.
Robert B. Dunham
Patrick J. Egan
Thomas J. Innes III
Kevin V. Mincey
Richard P. Myers
Louis M. Natali, Jr.
Edward D. Ohlbaum
Riley H. Ross, III
Howard D. Scher
Samuel W. Silver
Joseph A. Sullivan
John S. Summers
Hon. Phyllis W. Beck