A Pennsylvania man who spent more than half his life in prison walked free Monday after being declared “likely innocent” of his murder conviction by a Philadelphia prosecutor’s office in June.
Chester Hollman III, 48, was convicted of the 1991 shooting of University of Pennsylvania student Tae-Jung Ho, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer. Twenty-eight years later, Judge Gwendolyn Bright ordered him free from a Luzerne County state prison after a key witness said in 2012 her testimony was false and driven by police pressure.
“It’s so surreal,” Hollman said Monday while standing outside the prison, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I’m just happy and thankful and looking forward to starting the rest of my life.” (RELATED: Hawaii Man Faces Additional Punishment After Showing Up To Attempted Murder Sentencing In Blackface)
All charges against Hollman are expected to be dismissed later in July, reported NBC10. Authorities did not disclose evidence that could have incriminated suspects other than Hollman, who had no criminal record at the time, prosecutors said.
This is what freedom looks like. Chester Hollman walked out of prison, exonerated for the 1991 murder of a PENN student near Rittenhouse Square. He served nearly 28-years for a crime he didn’t commit. We’ll have the story as the only TV station here in Lucerne Co @NBCPhiladelphia pic.twitter.com/lputmVjJyB
— Denise Nakano (@DeniseNakanoTV) July 15, 2019
“This is a glorious day,” Hollman’s appeals lawyer Alan Tauber said Monday, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “We have a flawed system and innocent people do go to jail. But we have a great system, because there is a means for correcting that.”
Hollman was not even in court to hear the news, which came after the same judge had ruled in 2012 that Hollman did not need a new trial even though neighbor Deirdre Jones said she falsely testified. The neighbor had claimed she was riding in an SUV with Hollman and two others when two of them got out of the vehicle. Then she said she heard a gunshot. The retired detective who took her original statement, David Baker, denied multiple times that he had coerced Jones in any way, reported NBC10.
In addition, the city’s Conviction Integrity Unit found that a tip that was turned in less than 24 hours after the murder was not shared with the defense as it should have been.
A woman named Denise Combs was renting a white SUV with plate letters YZA, just like Hollman’s vehicle, and returned it shortly after the shooting. Hollman and Combs rented their vehicles from the same agency, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. A year earlier, Combs had rented a car that was used in a homicide and returned it after the crime, investigators found according to court papers cited by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
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