District Attorney Krasner, ADA Cummings Statements on 17th Exoneration Since 2018
Jane Roh, 215–686–8711, Jane.Roh@phila.gov
PHILADELPHIA (Dec. 29, 2020) — The District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) on Tuesday secured the 17th exoneration of a wrongfully convicted person since District Attorney Larry Krasner took office in 2018. The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas granted a motion filed by the CIU to withdraw prosecution of all charges against Robert Outlaw, whose 2004 conviction on First Degree Murder had been vacated by the PCRA court in January 2019.
The District Attorney declined to retry Outlaw following an investigation by the CIU and Homicide Unit that confirmed Brady violations and unreliable testimony had been used at the time of Outlaw’s first trial. Based on that investigation, the District Attorney concluded there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Outlaw is guilty of the 2000 murder of 19-year-old Jamal Kelly.
Among the findings of the CIU-Homicide investigation is corroborating evidence from at least one witness that another individual (who is now deceased) was responsible for Kelly’s murder. Although the police had credible evidence implicating that individual in the crime shortly after Kelly was murdered, that evidence was never thoroughly investigated by police. Then, instead of pursuing that investigative lead or asking questions at the time of trial, the District Attorney’s Office relied on that individual as a prosecution witness for the Commonwealth.
CIU Supervisor Patricia Cummings said: “Prosecutions that lack integrity are not justice. Mr. Outlaw did not receive a fair trial, and as a result, he was wrongly incarcerated for nearly 16 years. Justice was also denied for Mr. Kelly and those who have mourned his loss every single one of those years. I am grateful to lead a Conviction Integrity Unit in an office that not only embraces, but fulfills, its obligation to seek justice moving forward and looking backwards, at all times.”
District Attorney Krasner said: “Our obligation as prosecutors is to seek justice in service to the public’s safety. As Philadelphia and cities across the country grapple with an alarming increase in shooting homicides amidst the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, public officials must be guided by facts, science, and truth — not politics or fear-mongering. The Commonwealth can and should make necessary, overdue investments in investigative training and techniques specifically including forensics and other technology that empower law enforcement to solve more shootings and homicides. If and when that occurs, violent offenders will be held accountable using reliable evidence backed by science and the truth. We should always strive for a criminal justice system that is much more reliant on the truth, instead of one that simply relies on human emotions — in all of their unreliability and flaws.”
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 citizens 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.