exonerations

$5 Million for Wrongfully Convicted Exoneree, Willie Veasy, From Philly

The settlement for a Philadelphia man, who spent 27 years in state prison after he was wrongfully convicted for a 1992 murder, brings the total compensation paid by the city to exonerees to $45 million in the last three years.

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Willie Veasy spent 27 years during the prime of his life in a Pennsylvania state prison for a crime he didn't commit.

Pennsylvania does not provide wrongfully convicted exonerees like Veasy, of Philadelphia, any compensation for their false imprisonment, but the City of Philadelphia has been providing some relief. Veasy is getting $5 million through a settlement reached in May.

"We evaluate and analyze each case separately. The administration is committed to fairness in the criminal justice system," a spokesman for Mayor Jim Kenney said in an email Tuesday.

Since current District Attorney Larry Krasner took over, at least 21 wrongfully convicted men have been freed, many of them having spent decades in prison. The city has paid out $45 million in settlements to 12 of those men who filed lawsuits seeking compensation. Other lawsuits remain pending.

Krasner, in June following his big win in the Democratic primary election that all but assures him a second term starting next January, released a comprehensive report on exonerations that have occurred since he took office in 2018.

A Philadelphia man exonerated after 27 years behind bars for a murder he didn't commit has struggled to get used to freedom, especially in a society locked down by COVID-19. His sister talked to NBC10 investigative reporter Mitch Blacher on the one-year anniversary of his freedom.

There have been 21 wrongly convicted men released from state prison since Philadelphia's progressive district attorney took office, and the report also illuminated the dozens of ongoing case reviews still ongoing by the Conviction Integrity Unit.

Krasner created the CIU in 2018 and hired an attorney from Texas to head the unit, which now has more than a dozen assistant district attorneys assigned to it. Krasner noted Tuesday that he is in the process of hiring two more "executive-level" prosecutors to expand the work of the CIU.

"(This report is) about a criminal justice system that for decades put winning cases first and put justice second, that for decades put politics first and justice second," Krasner said of the report titled "Overturning Convictions -- and an Era."

"In my view, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Philadelphia Police Department have historically violated their sworn oaths to uphold the Constitution, seek justice, and protect and serve Philadelphians. Too often, they engaged in and tolerated horrendous abuses of power," Krasner wrote in the report. "[A] fair number of Philadelphia prosecutors, driven by a win-at-all-cost office culture, covered for or participated in these abuses."

Here is the full report released June 15 by the DA's office:

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