The Justice Wire
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The Justice Wire

DAO Conviction Integrity Unit Secures 19th Exoneration

CONTACT:
Jane Roh, 215–686–8711, Jane.Roh@phila.gov

PHILADELPHIA (March 13, 2021) — The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has granted District Attorney Larry Krasner’s motion to withdraw prosecution of Jahmir Harris, 31, who served eight years in prison after he was wrongfully convicted of a murder that occurred in 2012. Although his conviction was vacated in January, Harris remained incarcerated until March 12, 2021.

On October 16, 2020, following an investigation into Harris’s Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition, the District Attorney’s Office (DAO) informed the Court that Brady violations had occurred during trial, that Harris was not the shooter in the case, and that the DAO was investigating the suspect who the evidence points to as the actual shooter responsible for the death of Louis Porter on December 23, 2012, in the parking lot of Walgreens at 23rd Street and Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia. At that same time, the Commonwealth also informed the Court that it was requesting expedited proceedings so the Court could consider Harris’s release from prison.

On January 19, 2021, at the conclusion of an evidentiary hearing, the Court granted Harris’s PCRA petition explicitly finding that a new trial was constitutionally mandated as a result of Brady violations that undermined confidence in the conviction. Despite that finding, the Court rejected the Commonwealth’s oral motion to dismiss all charges, instead ordering the Commonwealth to file a written motion detailing its investigation into whether Harris played any role in the crime. The Court also denied the defense’s motion for Harris’s release, even though the Commonwealth’s stated position was that another known individual committed Porter’s murder.

As directed by the Court, the Commonwealth submitted a written motion for nolle prosequi on February 24th. After conducting two additional hearings, the Court granted the motion on Friday, March 12th.

Harris’ exoneration marks the 19th exoneration secured by the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU), led by Supervisor Patricia Cummings, since District Attorney Krasner took office in 2018. Harris is the 18th individual exonerated by the CIU; Christopher Williams was wrongfully convicted in two homicide cases under then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham, and had both convictions vacated under District Attorney Krasner.

“Every office and official within the criminal legal system must show fidelity to the truth above all else. The consequences when the system falls short of its oath are disastrous — to individuals, to their loved ones, and to the public’s faith and cooperation with the criminal legal system,” District Attorney Krasner said. “I want to express my deep regret for the failings of this office and its system partners many years ago. I am also incredibly proud to lead an office of prosecutors whose highest fidelity is to the truth, and thank CIU Supervisor Patricia Cummings and ADA Carrie Wood for once again making sure this office seeks justice moving forward and looking backward.”

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The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million residents of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives, and support staff. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecution of approximately 40,000 criminal cases annually.

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Philadelphia DAO

Philadelphia DAO

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is committed to seeking fair and equal justice for 1.5 million residents, while upholding Constitutional rights.