The officers falsely testified at trial that Mr. Hicks had lunged at them while armed with a gun that he pulled from his pocket. However, the recent assessments by both the chief medical examiner for the City of Philadelphia and an independent medical examiner concluded that Mr. Hicks was shot from behind — meaning he wasn’t coming toward the officers when he was shot. And the gun the officers alleged to have found in his pocket was actually the off-duty weapon of another Philadelphia police officer.
“We need a whole new system.”
Based on these lies, Mr. Hicks was convicted of rape, aggravated assault, possessing an instrument of crime, and terroristic threats in 2002 and sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.
“Mr. Hicks’ case is yet another example of systemic police abuse that is pervasive in the criminal legal system and persists because of institutional protections and a lack of accountability,” said Vanessa Potkin, director of post-conviction litigation at the Innocence Project, who represented Mr. Hicks.
“The officers involved in this case had extensive internal affairs files with numerous allegations of lying, planting evidence, excessive force, and substantiated complaints filed by civilians. Had these records been publicly available, Mr. Hicks may not have had to endure so many years of injustice or been wrongly convicted at all,” she said. Police disciplinary records are currently kept confidential in nearly half of states, including Pennsylvania.
Finally home, Mr. Hicks said he’s most proud of himself for staying strong and remaining determined to prove his innocence. At one point, Mr. Hicks was considered for parole, but was ultimately denied because he refused to admit guilt, and continued to maintain his innocence.
“There were moments, but I did not give up,” he said. “One of the bullets barely missed my spine, but you’re talking to a guy who ran a couple of marathons while he was incarcerated.”
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During his wrongful imprisonment, Mr. Hicks said he focused on his mental and spiritual health and used creative writing as an emotional outlet. He wrote 12 plays and musicals while in prison and, now that he’s free, he hopes to eventually produce and direct plays.
Until then, he just wants to spend time with his family as a free person.