Published on: Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Three former Philadelphia homicide detectives, who built a murder case that wrongly convicted a 20-year-old man and kept him in prison for 25 years, were arrested on charges of perjury and false statements in a rare attempt by authorities to hold police accountable for actions which lead to false arrests and wrongful convictions (article available here).

The detectives said that Anthony Wright had confessed to the rape and murder of his 77-year-old neighbor Louise Talley in 1991, and that they found the bloody clothes he wore during the killing in his bedroom. But Wright denied confessing, and DNA testing in 2013 showed that another man, who lived near the victim, had raped and likely murdered her, prosecutors said in court papers. It also showed that the clothes the detectives claimed they found were actually worn by the victim, not Wright.

Still, Philadelphia prosecutors insisted on retrying Wright in 2016. And that is when the actions of homicide detectives Manuel Santiago, Martin Devlin and Frank Jastrzembski began to unravel, according to a Philadelphia County grand jury’s detailed presentment. The grand jury wrote that they sought to hold Santiago, Devlin and Jastrzembski “accountable for lying under oath to condemn an innocent man and cover up their wrongdoing, and for perverting the integrity of the law.”

The jury acquitted Wright of rape and murder charges in less than an hour. Following his release, most of the jurors met with Wright the next day to wish him well. In 2018, the city of Philadelphia agreed to pay a $9.85 million settlement to Wright. The lead prosecutor in the retrial, Carlos Vega, ran for district attorney in the Democratic primary against incumbent Larry Krasner in May and was soundly defeated.