A Philadelphia man walked free Monday after serving 28 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit as it was determined prosecutors held evidence that pointed to other suspects in the case.
Chester Hollman III, 48, was released from a state prison in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, after a judge ruled that he was “likely innocent” in the 1991 murder of Tae Jung Ho, CNN reported. A formal dismissal of the charges is expected July 30.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet still,” Hollman told CBS Philadelphia. “Just this morning, I learned that this was happening. I’m still a little in shock, in disbelief.”
The Pennsylvania man was handed a life sentence after being convicted of robbery and murder in Ho’s death in May 1993.
“Knowing that you’re in prison for something that you didn’t do and trying to convince people that you’re not lying, your innocence is true, it’s real, it’s an uphill battle,” he told the station, adding that he’s happy to finally be out.
In 2012, a key witness in the case admitted to giving false testimony that implicated Hollman in the crime, saying a prosecutor had pressured her. More recently, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office accused police and prosecutors of suppressing evidence in the case for years, and said authorities had clues connecting at least three other persons to the crime.
“It was pretty clear to us that, unfortunately, the police department and the district attorney’s office actually had evidence in their possession back at the time of trial,” Assistant District Attorney Patricia Cummings, head of the office’s conviction integrity unit, said Monday.
Ho and a friend, both foreign exchange students, were walking home when they became the victims of a robbery. Ho was pushed to the ground and shot dead before the suspects fled in a white Chevy Blazer SUV.
Hollman was stopped just four minutes after the first 911 call about the shooting was made, court documents show. At the time, he was driving a rented white Chevy Blazer SUV with a licences plate number that matched the first three letters of the suspect’s vehicle. Within 24 hours an anonymous call provided police with the name of the driver, however, that evidence was never presented to the defense attorney.
Cummings argued Monday that Hollman might not have ever stood trial had authorities working on the case disclosed some of the evidence to the defense as required by Brady v. Maryland, a 1963 Supreme Court ruling that requires prosecutors to turn over to the defense all evidence that could point to a suspect’s innocence.
District Attorney Larry Krasner also blasted prosecutors and police for dropping the ball.
“That’s the kind of shame that happens and you have people in law enforcement, including in this office, who ignore their oath, who ignore the Constitution and who engage in misconduct, which is what happened,” said Krasner.
Hollman’s lawyer, Alan Tauber, called it “a glorious day,” as his client was finally a free man.
“We have a flawed system and innocent people do go to jail,” Tauber said, adding that Hollman had the “most precious moments of his life” taken from him. “But we have a great system, because there is a means for correcting that.”
“We are only sorry that his mother did not live to see Chester declared an innocent man,” he concluded.
Watch more in the clip below.