Theophalis Wilson is now looking at life on the other side of prison walls after serving 28 years in prison for a triple murder that he did not commit. The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas exonerated the 48-year-old on Tuesday and ordered for his immediate release following a judge tossing his conviction due to “serious misconduct by the prosecution, an ineffective defense and a witness who supplied false testimony,” according to a Philadelphia ABC affiliate. Wilson is now among a list of men who were wrongfully convicted in Philadelphia.
“This is a great day,” Wilson said. “Now we gotta go back and get the other guys. There’s a lot of innocent people in jail.”
Wilson was 17 years old when he was arrested for a 1989 triple homicide in Philadelphia. Following his arrest, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole based on a false testimony. The witness who testified against Wilson and his co-defendant Christopher Williams, who was exonerated a month before Wilson according to ABC 6, later repudiated his testimony admitting that he provided inaccurate information in exchange for a plea deal to avoid the death penalty.
Wilson is the 12th individual to be acquitted by the prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit, which as of Feb. 2018 is led by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner appointee Patricia Cummings who formerly oversaw Dallas County district attorney’s conviction integrity unit, according to The Appeal.
In Feb. 2019, counsel filed a petition in favor of Wilson, arguing that several key exculpatory documents had been withheld from the defense that proved his innocence.
“It is time for Mr. Wilson to be allowed to go home — that he go home a free man, and that he go home with an apology,” Cummings said in court. No words can express what we put these people through. What we put Mr. Wilson through. What we put his family through.”
Wilson’s case, which the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office has called a “perfect storm” of injustice is one of many where a Black man was wrongfully convicted of a crime and the exonerated years, if not decades, later.
Terrance Lewis, like Wilson, was 17 years old when he was wrongfully sentenced to life in prison without parole, according to The Appeal. He was arrested in connection with a 1996 robbery that took the life off a Philadelphia man. Similar to Wilson, prosecutors used faulty witness testimonies to convict Lewis. He spent over 21 years in jail and was released in May 2019.
Shaurn Thomas spent 24 years in prison for a murder he did not commit before being exonerated in 2017. The Philadelphia man walked free after his 1993 conviction was dismissed. A witness testified that Thomas was involved in the killing of a businessman when he was 16 years old. The lone witness later recanted their testimony.
Like many other exonerated prisoners, Thomas doesn’t hold a grudge against the Philadelphia criminal justice system that has wronged him and many others.