Philadelphia Inquirer Urges Philly DA to Drop Charges Against Anthony Wright
An editorial in Friday’s
urges the city’s District Attorney Seth Williams not to retry Anthony Wright, whose rape and murder convictions were overturned last month based on new DNA testing that revealed the crimes were committed by another man with a long criminal history. In addition, DNA testing of clothing alleged by police to have been worn by Wright to commit the crime now shows that the clothes were not, in fact, his. The
But the revelation that there is little if any physical evidence now linking Wright to the victim has been interpreted by prosecutors merely as proof that he had an accomplice who – incredibly – was completely unknown to Philadelphia detectives investigating the crime. No word on how the then-19-year-old Wright would know a felon roughly twice his age, nor on why he wouldn’t have mentioned the accomplice when he signed a confession, later recanted, under police pressure.
It’s Williams’ prerogative, of course – no doubt he would say his duty as district attorney – to test his far-fetched theory before a jury in a second trial. But it would serve justice better if Williams declined to retry Wright, who has likely served a 22-year prison sentence either for a crime he did not commit or for one in which he played a far less significant role than alleged.
In any case, there is absolutely no cause for Williams’ office to suggest – as it did in a filing Wednesday – that Wright may be sent to death row if the new trial yields a guilty verdict. Not only did the first jury deadlock on the death penalty without seeing the new evidence of Wright’s innocence, but Pennsylvania is in the midst of a wholesale reexamination of its flawed capital punishment system – as are many states amid growing public and legal pressure to scrap executions altogether.
Williams can use the Wright case to get on the right side of that historical shift toward a more just criminal justice system.
Read the full editorial.
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