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Man Freed from Prison 37 Years After Murder Conviction, Witness Took Police Bribes of Drugs and Sex


Man Freed from Prison 37 Years After Murder Conviction, Witness Took Police Bribes of Drugs and Sex

Earlier this month, 61-year-old Willie Stokes released from prison after spending over three decades behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.

Stokes was convicted of murder in 1984, mostly based on the testimony of Franklin Lee, a friend who claimed Stokes had confessed to killing a man named Leslie Campbell during a dice game. According to NPR,  days after Stokes’ trial ended, Lee admitted to having lied in court and was convicted of perjury. During his incarceration, Stokes filed several appeals to have his conviction overturned, all of those were rejected on a procedural basis. Stokes attorneys didn’t even know about Lee’s perjury conviction until 2015.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner says in a press release that Stokes’ case was the result of malpractice by both prosecutors and the police, something he says was pervasive “during the so-called tough-on-crime 1980s and 1990s, and unfortunately persist in far too many jurisdictions today.”

“Prosecutors have an obligation to seek justice, and to redefine prosecutorial success — not by ‘wins’ in the form of convictions, but by accuracy and fairness in resolving criminal investigations and prosecutions,” Krasner added.

In November, the U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania finally agreed to hear Stokes’ case. During the hearing, Lee testified that while he was in jail facing murder and rape charges in 1984, homicide detectives Lawrence Gerrard and Ernest Gilbert offered him “sex, drugs and a deal” to frame Stokes.

Stokes revealed that on at least one occasion, Gerrard and Gilbert arranged for he and his girlfriend to have private rendezvous at police headquarters. In another incident, the detectives gave Lee condoms and hired a sex worker for him. The two detectives are accused of coercing other witnesses in the same way.

Stokes is set to appear for a hearing on Jan. 27, at which point the district attorney will decide whether or not he will be retried.Read more: 

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