PHILADELPHIA — Eric Riddick has spent nearly 30 years behind bars in a murder he says he didn’t commit. But on Friday he walks free
“I feel great. I feel great,” Riddick, 51, said as he left the courthouse in Philadelphia.
“They said they had to use the village to raise their children. I guess it takes the village to raise justice as well,” he continued, adding that the surging emotions were “overwhelming.”
in recent years His case gained more national attention, and several key figures encouraged his release. This includes famous hip-hop artists and sympathetic city councilors.
In the summer of 1992, Riddick was found guilty of murdering his childhood friend William Catlett, according to a single eyewitness. and was sentenced to life in prison.
His case first caught the attention of NBC News by rapper and activist Meek Mill, who said he met Riddick when he was sent to the same prison for violating custody. behave
Riddick’s mother, Christine, has been fighting for her son for years. by knocking on the door at the town hall and fiercely advocating for him to release him from the day he was found guilty.
Her protest and persistence caught the attention of Philadelphia councilor David Oh. Which took a huge part in the fight to liberate Riddick and eventually supported a resolution asking for the Tom Wolf government to be pardoned.
The night Catlett died after what police said was a drug dispute, Riddick said he was two blocks away with three friends, a claim he has always held. But during the trial The defense attorney appointed by the court never summoned three defendants to testify.
Riddick confirmed that his lawyer, who previously declined to comment when reached NBC News, was not defending.
The trial was based on the testimony of a single witness, Shawn Stevenson, who identified him as the shooter and told police he saw Riddick firing a rifle from a fire escape. But he dismissed his testimony in an affidavit in 1999.
Riddick said he did not receive an affidavit until 2003 and by the time he appealed. it’s too late Pennsylvania’s Post-Conviction Relief Act, or PCRA, says that sentence appeals must have a one-year deadline unless new evidence is received, in which case they must be filed within 60 days.
Riddick’s appeal was rejected.
Nine years later, in 2012, an investigation by forensic firearms specialist William Conrad found that Riddick was the shooter.
In December 2017, two judges who rejected Riddick’s latest appeal admitted a flaw in the system. they wrote “It’s clear to everyone that there is a tendency for innocent men to sit behind bars for no better reason than a pregnant statute.”
But then a group of Georgetown University students got involved in the case.
Marc Howard, one of the nation’s leaders in criminal justice and prison reform. Teach a course at Georgetown University called “Making an Exoneree” in which students examine the cases of incarcerated people claiming to be innocent. (Howard teaches in class with his childhood friend Marty Tankleff. (who spent more than 17 years in New York’s highest-security prison after being convicted of murdering his parents before being acquitted in December 2007.)
Mill came to speak in Georgetown and spoke about Riddick’s case with Howard, who watched the “NBC Nightly News” report that night that aired months ago.
In 2019, three students begin investigating Riddick’s case again in every aspect. By recording their work for about 20 hours along the way. This included talking to his family and lawyers while searching for additional witnesses.
until then Philadelphia has picked a new district attorney: Larry Krasner, progressive crusade. He was a civil rights attorney for 25 years and before that was a public defender.
Krasner just hired the new head of the Conviction Integrity Unit: Patricia Cummings, one of the leading experts in the United States on innocence. She uncovers long-standing forms of corruption involving police and prosecution, often hiding evidence of evictions to win convictions.
In April 2019, Riddick’s lawyers and three Georgetown students met with Cummings and her team to explain why they believed he was innocent.
Over the next month, Krasner’s office flipped over 1,000 pages of documents from the prosecutor’s file. Including reports that Riddick was not one of the suspected shooters. And there is evidence that Riddick didn’t reveal it.
The Conviction Integrity Unit has finally reached an agreement to release Riddick from prison, although he has not been formally clarified on the murder.
The settlement said Riddick would plead guilty to third-degree murder and then be given time, the Conviction Integrity Unit said on Friday without evidence it believed Riddick was an accomplice in Catlett’s killing, but The fatal shot was not fired.
Dan Slepian and Ron Allen report from Philadelphia, Daniel Arkin reports from New York.