On August 23, 2016, the jury took just one hour to find Anthony Wright innocent after a retrial that set him free from 25 years of imprisonment for crimes he did not commit. Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP attorneys Sam Silver and Rebecca Lacher defended Mr. Wright, working with Peter Neufeld and Nina Morrison of the Innocence Project. All four attorneys and Mr. Wright’s family joyously walked out of Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility that night. Tony hailed the moment, saying “Today is our day” and thanking his family and legal team for their unwavering support and belief in his innocence.
In 1993, Mr. Wright was convicted of the 1991 rape and murder of 77-year-old North Philadelphia resident Louise Talley. At the time of his conviction, Mr. Wright narrowly escaped the death penalty by a 7 to 5 vote of the jury and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Police claimed that Mr. Wright voluntarily and immediately gave a signed confession while interviewed at the Police Administrative Building . Mr. Wright, who was just 20 when he was arrested, has always maintained his innocence. He testified in 1993 and again in 2016 that he signed the alleged confession, which the police wrote out, only after the interrogating detectives threatened him and promised that he would go home after he signed the papers.
After a long battle that resulted in a change in Pennsylvania law, the rape kit taken in 1991 was finally tested in 2012. By early 2013, the DNA evidence had conclusively excluded Tony Wright and identified Ronnie Byrd as the sole source of sperm found inside the victim. Because the police also claimed that Tony had confessed to wearing specific clothing during the rape and murder that they allegedly recovered from Mr. Wright’s home, further DNA testing was done on that clothing to determine the wearer. The DNA testing revealed that the clothes were worn by the victim and that no evidence supported that the clothing was ever worn by Mr. Wright.
In a remarkable showing of support for Mr. Wright and belief in the evidence presented at trial of his innocence, all of the jurors stayed outside the courthouse following the verdict to meet his legal team and with hopes of meeting Mr. Wright. Because Mr. Wright was not released from court but instead transported back to prison before his release later that night, Schnader hosted a meeting with Mr. Wright and jurors the following day. Nine of the jurors attended so that they could hug Mr. Wright and express their well wishes for his future.