Friday, June 10, 2016

Tony Wright Is Still In Jail & NRA Opposes Prison Reform

Tony Wright with son Tony, Jr. (left) in 1991
Consider what you have been doing since March of 2015, or the past 25 years.

It was March 2,  2015 when Rolling Stone published Paul Solotaroff's stunning article, "Why Is This Man Still In Jail?" an expose about Tony Wright, a Philadelphia man who Philly cops wrongly pegged and indicted for the brutal murder of a 77-year old woman name Louise Talley.

Solotaroff, a Pulitzer Prize nominated former Village Voice editor, examined how an innocent man got trapped deep inside the dark recesses of a broken criminal justice system.

In painful and meticulous detail, he examined how Wright could still be incarcerated after 25 years despite the fact that DNA evidence exonerated him and overturned his conviction in a court of law in 2014 with the help of The Innocence Project.

Yet he's still behind bars. Click the link above if you've never read about this travesty of justice, the basic facts are truly disturbing.

Wright had a tough upbringing in North Philadelphia. At age 20 he'd finally turned his life around with the help of extended family, was on the right path and had a steady job when Philly cops knocked on his door in 1992 and asked him to come down to the station; 25 years later he's still in jail - the problem is he didn't do anything.

Philly cops, including Detectives Martin Devlin and Frank Jastrzembski used a false confession, illegal interrogation techniques, concocted false evidence, used testimony of two children and coerced two crackheads who didn't even know Wright to frame him for the brutal rape and stabbing of Louise Talley.

Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck
The Innocence Project, founded by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld in 1992 as a means to use DNA evidence and modern forensic science to help clear innocent people from crimes for which they (mostly poor black defendants) have been found guilty, intervened on Wright's behalf.

Based on their work, Wright was granted a new trial back in 2014; albeit one that's yet to take place.

Not surprising when you look closer at the facts of the case, and the potential bombshell it would mean for the Philly PD as well as the prosecutors in the original case.

DNA evidence clearly proved that Wright did not rape and kill Louise Talley.

DNA taken from semen samples lifted from Talley's body at the scene matched the DNA of a violent former crackhead with a lengthy rap sheet named Ronnie Byrd who used to live in the alley directly behind Talley's Philadelphia home.

The Philly police ignored witnesses who could prove Wright wasn't at the scene at the time of the attack, and the discarded clothes cops presented as those of the culprit didn't even fit Wright.

Despite Louise Talley being raped and stabbed ten times, and her home robbed, his fingerprints were never found anywhere in her house, or on the knife that was used to kill her.

Shannon Coleman (left)
Despite all that, Philadelphia prosecutors are still stubbornly determined to keep him incarcerated, possibly because of the potential lawsuit the city would be facing for wrongly incarcerating an innocent man for over a quarter of a century.

Paul Solotaroff's Rolling Stone article brought renewed global attention to the case and caught the attention of Louise Talley's niece Shannon Coleman of Philadelphia.

Coleman was so outraged at the miscarriage of justice that she's started her own petition on calling for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams to release Wright - which you can sign too.

She also calls on Williams to cease the absurd efforts to retry Wright for a crime that DNA evidence proves beyond a doubt that he did not do.

As she notes in her petition, in a city so strapped for funds that it's a challenge to properly fund the public school system and repair infrastructure, it's hard to imagine a bigger waste of taxpayer funds than retrying a man whose conviction was overturned by science two years ago.

Wright's case not only illustrates the need for criminal justice reform in the United States, it also offers troubling insight into the root causes behind mass incarceration based on biased policing, dysfunctional law enforcement procedures and systematically flawed prosecutors and courts.

Oh and guess who is starting a campaign against criminal justice reform?

As the gun law advocacy group reported on Monday, at last month's annual meeting of the National Rifle Association, the group aligned itself with GOP front runner Donald Trump in opposing measures to release non-violent offenders and reduce mass incarceration.  

As Alex Yablon reported, vilifying criminal justice reform is a time-honored tactic to deflect public attention from the epic gun violence in America and a sure-fire way for the NRA to align itself against Hillary Clinton who has called for mandatory background checks for gun purchases and reforming mandatory sentencing laws.

Leave it to the NRA to use senseless fear tactics to lobby their members to oppose the reduction of mass incarceration when we're finally getting some rare bipartisan traction on the issue. Pathetic.

This country never ceases to amaze, the latest Affluenza poster boy, former Stanford swimming star Brock Turner, was found raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster by two witnesses, is found guilty by a jury and gets sentenced to 6-months by a judge who's a former Stanford lacrosse team captain.

Did you hear that Turner may not even serve the full six months?

Anthony Wright is convicted of a murder despite no physical evidence he committed the crime and DNA evidence that proves another man did it - and he's been in jail for 25 years.

Justice, American style.

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