Philly Detectives Involved in Wrongful Rape & Murder Conviction, Retrial of Anthony Wright Charged Following Grand Jury Investigation

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Manuel Santiago, Martin Devlin, Frank Jastrzembski Face Arrest, Prosecution for Perjury & False Swearing

PHILADELPHIA, PA — District Attorney Larry Krasner issued the following statement regarding the filing of Perjury and False Swearing charges against former Philadelphia Police Homicide Detectives Manuel Santiago, Martin Devlin, and Frank Jastrzembski:

“The 31st Philadelphia County Investigating Grand Jury has heard evidence and has issued a presentment in which they recommend criminal prosecution of three former Philadelphia Police Homicide Detectives for lying in 2016 both in and out of court about their on-duty roles in the investigation, interrogation, and wrongful conviction of an innocent man, Anthony Wright, which occurred in 1993. Eventually, Mr. Wright’s innocence was proven by DNA evidence that also identified the actual perpetrator of the crime, Ronnie Byrd. Wright’s wrongful conviction was overturned, but incredibly the Philadelphia DAO under former DA Seth Williams re-tried him despite irrefutable science establishing Wright’s innocence. The three detectives provided sworn testimony and documentation during the 2016 re-trial (where he was acquitted) and in Wright’s subsequent, successful civil rights lawsuit. Some of the sworn testimony and documentation these detectives provided form the basis for criminal charges.

“The Grand Jury presentment was accepted by the Court of Common Pleas and unsealed today. Manuel Santiago, Martin Devlin, and Frank Jastrzembski are the three retired Philadelphia police detectives who are now charged with multiple counts of Perjury (F3) and False Swearing in Official Matters (M2). They are expected to turn themselves in promptly with the assistance of their criminal defense counsel or face arrest.

“According to the presentment, Wright was convicted in 1993 for the 1991 rape and murder of 77-year-old Louise Talley on the strength of a coerced false confession — referred to as the Santiago/Devlin Confession — and false testimony from Jastrzembski about the location of clothing he falsely claimed was found during a search of Wright’s bedroom, but was actually found in the victim’s home.

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“According to the presentment, Wright, then 20 years old, repeatedly told detectives he had no involvement or knowledge of the crime, and spent hours repeatedly crying for his mother, whom he could hear outside the interrogation room screaming for him. Less than 24 hours after discovering Mrs. Talley’s body, detectives Santiago and Devlin coerced Wright into initialing and signing a false confession to a crime Wright did not commit, the details of which he did not know. Wright’s interrogation by Santiago and Devlin was not recorded or taped.

“The Grand Jury further concluded that the detectives deployed unlawful tactics to coerce Wright into signing the false confession, including by threatening to ‘pull his eyes out and skull-fuck him,’ falsely stating that Wright could go home if he signed the Santiago/Devlin Confession, and directing Wright to sign and initial the Santiago/Devlin Confession to create the appearance that he had read and verified its contents while preventing him from reading its contents.

“According to the presentment, Wright purportedly confessed that he was wearing a black Chicago Bulls sweatshirt, a pair of blue jeans, and a pair of black Fila sneakers while he committed the rape and murder. Former detective Jastrzembski later testified falsely under oath that, during a search of Wright’s home, he and two other detectives uncovered the sneakers and jeans in a pile of clothes on the floor of Wright’s bedroom and the Chicago Bulls sweatshirt under Wright’s mattress.

“Decades later, DNA testing proved that another man, Ronnie Byrd, who lived near the victim’s home (and who by then was deceased), had raped and murdered Mrs. Talley. The clothing that Wright’s false confession stated he wore during the crime, and that Jastrzembski later falsely claimed he found during a search of Wright’s home, yielded ‘wearer’ DNA from Talley, establishing that the clothing was actually worn by Talley, not Wright.

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“Arguably, the statute of limitations for several possible crimes committed by the detectives during the 1991 investigation and 1993 trial may have expired. As a result, the 31st Investigating Grand Jury instead reviewed the detectives’ conduct during the 2016 retrial of Wright and the 2017 depositions for the civil lawsuit filed by Wright after his 2016 exoneration by a jury. In that 2016 re-trial, Philadelphia jurors deliberated for less than one hour before exonerating Wright.

“Wright’s civil attorney, Peter Neufeld, testified to the Grand Jury that the exoneration of Wright is the only DNA exoneration in the country where the prosecutor, then-DA Seth Williams, elected to retry the case despite overwhelming, scientific evidence of innocence.

“According to the presentment, the three former detectives testified falsely under oath about both the evidence used to convict Wright and their knowledge of the DNA evidence that ultimately exonerated Wright during the 2016 retrial. During depositions under oath for Wright’s civil rights lawsuit based upon his wrongful conviction, Santiago and Jastrzembski changed their sworn testimony, stating that they actually had been told by one of the two trial prosecutors, former Assistant District Attorney Bridget Kirn, about the DNA evidence clearing Wright prior to testifying at the 2016 retrial. At the retrial and depositions, both Devlin and Santiago repeated their false, sworn claims that Wright’s 1991 confession to the crime had been given willingly and transcribed word-for-word.

“After hearing testimony from key witnesses and reviewing evidence, the Grand Jury recommended that Santiago, Devlin, and Jastrzembski be held accountable for lying under oath to condemn an innocent man and cover up their wrongdoing, and for perverting the integrity of law. Upon their recommendation, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has approved and commenced prosecution for the following charges:

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“Manuel Santiago is charged with 2 counts of Perjury and 2 counts of False Swearing for false testimony regarding the Santiago/Devlin Confession at the 2016 retrial and 2017 deposition; and 1 count of Perjury and 1 count of False Swearing for false testimony regarding prior knowledge of the DNA results clearing Wright at the 2016 retrial.

“Martin Devlin is charged with 2 counts of Perjury and 2 counts of False Swearing for false testimony regarding the Santiago/Devlin Confession at the 2016 retrial and 2017 deposition.

“Frank Jastrzembski is charged with 2 counts of Perjury and 2 counts of False Swearing for false testimony regarding the search of Wright’s bedroom at the 2016 retrial and 2017 deposition; and 1 count of Perjury and 1 count of False Swearing for false testimony regarding prior knowledge of the DNA results clearing Wright at the 2016 retrial.

“This is an open and active criminal investigation, and the cases will be tried by the District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) and Special Investigations Unit (SIU). The SIU hotline, 215–686–9608, is available for members of the public who wish to report potential crimes, including official misconduct, directly to my office.”

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