Philadelphia Residents On The Hook For $9.8 Million For Putting The Wrong Man In Prison For 28 Years

from the give-till-it-hurts-residents,-say-the-government dept

Plenty of people can ruin lives. But no one can ruin lives like cops and prosecutors.

Look, we get it. Everyone likes an easy day at work. But when lives are on the line, the “easy” should be subservient to the “justified.” But that’s not what happens. When cops decide they like someone for a crime, “correct” is no longer a factor. You can’t close a case file without a convicted perp. And closing a case apparently means more than being right, even if it means the real perp is still on the loose.

So (to paraphrase the screw coming down on Paul Newman) you get what we have here: a perp. A perp who wasn’t the actual killer, but still lost more than a third of his life expectancy to police and prosecutors eager to close a case. Who pays for this miscarriage of justice? Well, it’s the same people who want for all the world to believe a miscarriage of justice will never occur: taxpayers.

We want to believe cops want to protect us from violent criminals. The reality is opposed to this viewpoint. The cops want whoever they can hang a crime on, even if it’s not the real criminal. And while cops go to bed feeling they’ve made us safer, real life shows us cops can sleep through the shittiest railroadings. So can prosecutors.

In Philadelphia, taxpayers are being forced to cough up nearly $10 million to pay for the things that let terrible cops and worse prosecutors sleep the sleep of the righteous. Here’s Jeremy Roebuck of The Philadelphia Inquirer, letting us know that horrendous things are being done in our names because it’s being done with our tax dollars.

In one of the largest wrongful-conviction settlements in Philadelphia history, the city said Wednesday it will pay $9.8 million to a man exonerated after spending nearly three decades in prison for a murder he did not commit.

$9.8 million is not an insignificant amount of money. That’s decent VC funding. That’s a comfortable retirement for people who want to retire while they’re still in their 30s. That’s a monumental amount of cash. And this payout could have been avoided if anyone involved in the investigation had decided the perp that was “easiest” wasn’t actually the murderer they were seeking.

But no one did. And it cost an innocent man more than a third of his life.

Chester Hollman III was 21, with no criminal record and a job as an armored-car driver, when he was pulled over in Center City one night in 1991 and charged with the fatal shooting of a University of Pennsylvania student in a botched street robbery. A judge ordered him released last year at age 49, citing evidence that police and prosecutors built their case on fabricated statements from people they coerced as witnesses and later withheld evidence pointing to the likely true perpetrators of the crime.

This is what we get for supplying cops with outsized portions of city budgets. This is what we get for giving the law enforcement side of our lives outsized deference for years. This is what we get for accepting exonerative bullshit for years from cops and prosecutors. We give them an inch and they take 28 years off a man’s life.

$10 million is low. But it’s all the city can do. As this report notes, cops and prosecutors have cost the city (and by the “city,” I mean its taxpaying residents) more than $35 million in a little over two years.

Is this acceptable? It shouldn’t be. But those paying the fees for bad cops and worse prosecutors hold almost no power. Sure, they can vote with their expectations and wallets during local elections, but when push comes to courtroom shove, taxpayers are on the hook. They’re expected to right the wrongs they never would have allowed to happen. It’s their money on the line but they have no say in how it’s spent.

Garbage in. Garbage out. This payout isn’t a record-setter. But that’s only because many of those who dipped their investigative wick in this case were even more awful in the past.

His payout is just $50,000 short of the record for settlements of its kind in the city — a distinction held by the $9.85 million agreement the city struck in 2018 with Anthony Wright, a man who served nearly 25 years of a sentence for a 1991 rape and murder that DNA evidence proved decades later he did not commit. Several of the same investigators who worked to convict Wright were also involved in Hollman’s case.

Vomit in disgust, Philadelphia. Hold your enemies close. But hold your wallet even closer. The city supports bad cops and bad prosecutors. There’s a progressive DA in office now, but the horrors of the past can still come and demand you pay for actions you’d never condone.

We’re paying for easy days at work. Taxpayers are asked to fund criminal “justice.” But when they have their hands out, they refuse to specify they’ll take the “justice” in scare quotes over real justice any day of the week.

One [witness] said officers had threatened her with arrest if she did not implicate Hollman. The other [witness] later said he had agreed to provide the false testimony in hopes of securing help with his own pending criminal case.

Keep your receipts, folks. Wave them in the faces of “more of the same” law enforcement candidates. Ask them why the easiest route to “justice” involves threatening witnesses and tilting the scale against people whose innocence is supposed to be presumed. Ask them how they sleep at night knowing they’ve sent innocent people off to prisons where crime is more rampant than the crime on the streets they’re supposed to be policing. Ask them if they’re cool subjecting people to violent rape and the loss of their freedom based on nothing more than a bunch of coercion. If they’re cool with it, suggest they end their careers, if not their lives. They’re not worthy of your respect, much less your tax dollars.

We have a system that’s supposed to protect the accused from an overbearing government. But far too often, it only shields the accusers and their busted inputs. For the rest of us on the outside, the only thing it means is higher tax rates and the use of our money to pay other citizens for being fucked by the government we’ve asked to never put us in this position.

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Comments on “Philadelphia Residents On The Hook For $9.8 Million For Putting The Wrong Man In Prison For 28 Years”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'I'm not in the cell so I sleep quite well, thank you.'

One [witness] said officers had threatened her with arrest if she did not implicate Hollman. The other [witness] later said he had agreed to provide the false testimony in hopes of securing help with his own pending criminal case.

Pretty sure if you took the badge away that would be extortion with the threat of kidnapping and blackmail respectively, but I suppose once you give someone a badge those pesky ‘laws’ no longer apply.

Several of the same investigators who worked to convict Wright were also involved in Hollman’s case.

In addition to taking fines out of personal bank accounts of those involved stories like this just add weight to the idea that if it can be shown that those involved knew or had good reason to suspect that they were railroading an innocent person into bogus charges they themselves should face at least the same penalty that they are seeking to impose on the accused. Lock someone up for decades at a time then congrats, you’re not seeing daylight except through bars for an equally long time, and parole for good behavior does not apply.

Make the punishments personal and equivalent and scum like that might actually care that they’re ruining lives, until then it’s just another day on the job and the suffering of the innocent isn’t a problem because that’s someone else’s problem to deal with.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

I’m sure the mere monetary costs are even higher, factoring in things like the costs the courts and everyone involved in a trial suffer, the costs of pointless bureacracy, and the costs of prosecutors and cops doing worse than nothing.

But the monetary, societal, and oersonal costs just radiate further from there.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Nicola Lane (profile) says:

How many people are dead because of these "cops"?

So that is a minimum of two murderers who weren’t even looked for – I wonder if they killed again because they got away with it last time?

It really seems that the people of Philidelphia would be much better off if they just threw the whole police department in jail and didn’t bother to replace them.

Professor Ronny says:

In Philadelphia, taxpayers are being forced to cough up nearly $10 million to pay for the things that let terrible cops and worse prosecutors sleep the sleep of the righteous

The cost is much higher still because someone paid to keep the man in prison all those years and while not a dollar cost, the real killer went free all those years, putting more people at risk.

Christenson says:

Pressure destroys the truth...and it's not new!

I’ve been reading a little too much Wikipedia about serial killers, and one of the common threads is cops pressuring people who didn’t do the killing (but maybe something else) into confessing, including gradually feeding crime scene details to the suspect.

The more pressure you put on someone for a desired statement, the more likely you are to get it, with truthfulness of said statement generally not part of the calculus. Thus we used to have a ban on torture.

I’ve also seen at least two places where people have said that if you want to detect a lie, just relax, ask for details, and listen carefully. Liars tend to lose track and contradict themselves; tracking is hard work. In fact, one FBI agent (I think Joe Navarro, also author) said he got at least one confession by being the first person to lend his suspect a sympathetic ear.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Paul B says:

Re: Pressure destroys the truth...and it's not new!

Fairly sure this is still how you get false confessions. There are documented cases of people confessing with deep details when there was no physical was they could have done the crime. Cops can spend hours asking questions, painting a picture in the persons head and then later the person says, well I know so much, I must have forgotten or blacked out or something.

Anonymous Coward says:

i’ve said many times here, nothing is more important than the prosecution getting a conviction! the fact that often, as in this case, the wrong person is convicted and jailed, certainly for this length of time, means nothing to them. they got the conviction! their stats went up! the police stats went up! there was probably promotions as well! everyone gained except the poor, innocent fucker who was screwed into the ground to achieve what these others wanted. the really scary thing is, what if he had been executed, as i am damn sure a lot have been in the past? would this travesty have still come out? i doubt not! and even if it did, it wouldn’t have mattered much, would it! the USA needs to stop becomming another Nazi Germany, where whatever the government and law enforcement says goes and return to what it started out as, a free country where there was nothing more important than the people and their freedom and it was applied according to the Constitution, not where it was erroded by judges who are wanna be Hitlers!

ECA (profile) says:


are any City officials, EVER held responsible for the Jobs that hold?
I live in a small town, and for SOME reason a Mayor gained a NEW home before he was evicted from office. And to find that the city coffers were empty.
This small town, hadnt kept up with State requirements for DATA/Expenses, for over 10 years. the STATE hadnt even noticed.
Do you know that EVERY town/city Must do water checks every year? And 1 city there were Many locations to do these checks, so they Rotate the locations every year. 1 city they Kept checking the SAME locations for many years, NEVER checking the other locations. Things started getting abit BAD, and then all this was discovered.

A question to ask your Water control, about testing.
WHAT do you NOT test for?
What do you test for?
And WHY not for anything else.
Esp. if an area is for farming. The Chemicals tend to SINK into the ground and get cleaned out, but TIME is not your friend. And estimates that it takes ## long were changed to ### long, for the amount of water based materials to get to an aquifer.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Terror Tuesday Squads

Those were Blackwater mercs during the George W. Bush administration. By the time Obama was already in power it was the CIA Drone Strike campaign, so the death squads were pilot crews that flew by remote control (often while still here in the States) and treated like shit by their superiors. Also it turns out you can get PTSD from committing massacres, even when under orders.

Still you’re right whether mercs or drone-crews, they’ve have burned villages, ended lives and ruined plenty more averaging around 500 sorties a year during the Obama administration, causing more death than all the guns in North America.

Those that survive these attacks often have nothing better to do than meet up with their buddy-who-knows-Al-Shabaab-guys and increase the numbers of the Rebel Alliance. But our shadowy overlords in the military industrial complex are counting on that.

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