A black Philadelphia man was released from prison on Thursday after serving more than 30 years behind bars for a 1984 murder he did not commit.
Curtis Crosland returned home to five children, his fiancée and 32 grandchildren after witnesses who convicted him recanted their statements.
“It’s a great feeling to still be a father, to be wanted and wanted, and open arms to receive you, that’s the greatest part of being released, coming home to a loving family that wants and needs me Crosland said. CNN.
Crosland was convicted in 1991 of the robbery and murder of the 1984 South Philadelphia store owner Il Man Heo and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The conviction was based on the testimonies of two informants – Rodney Everett and Delores Tilghman – who lied about Crosland in order to get leniency in their own case.
Risheen Crosland, left, and his father Curtis Crosland, right, reunite with family after Curtis was released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit
Delores Crosland, left, hugging her uncle Curtis Crosland, center, and his sister Shirley Crosland, right, after Curtis was released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit
Everett faced a parole when he agreed to provide information in multiple murder cases and pointed the finger at Crosland, according to court documents.
But he failed the polygraph test and told his wife it was another suspect, court documents say.
The other witness who put Crosland in jail was Tilghman, who made a false statement in another murder case.
In interviews with the Philadelphia Inquirer, they both said they felt compelled to say what prosecutors and police wanted.
“It was just really brutal. They threaten you. They will use your family and they will tell you what they will do with your family, take your children,” Everett told the Philadelphia newspaper.
He said he testified at Crosland’s preliminary hearing but had repeatedly tried to recant.
“If you tell the truth, they don’t care. They will accept the lies, but not the truth,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Everett and Tilgham’s statements were all that connected Crosland to the murder. There was no physical evidence to suggest Crosland had killed Heo.
This was discovered during a search of police files and court documents that the CIU said had been withheld from the defense by the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
Federal Court Judge Anita B. Brody agreed that it violated the “Brady Rule,” which requires all information to be turned over to the defense, in her three page decision Release Croland.
Curtis Crosland, left, and his brother Victor Crosland, center, and his sister Shirley Crosland, right, FaceTime with family members after Curtis was released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit
The CIU contacted Heo’s son, Charles Heo, and his daughter, Song Heo, about the release.
CIU said in a press release that they expressed their “gratitude” that the CIU continued to seek justice for their father’s murder, meaning to both of them that every citizen’s right to a fair trial is respected.
“Make us proud of the justice system by always questioning its integrity with regard to justice. I am immensely grateful to you for your hard work and continuing to do the right thing,” Charles Heo said in the CIU Accountability Report.
Since its inception in 2018, the CIU has now acquitted 22 wrongly convicted persons, including Crosland.