Three former Philadelphia Police Department detectives have been charged with perjury and false swearing stemming from a 1991 rape and murder case, according to a statement released Friday by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Former homicide detectives Frank Jastrzembski, Manuel Santiago and Martin Devlin were charged with perjury for allegedly providing false testimony in the 2016 retrial of the case, according to Krasner.
The district attorney accused the men of lying “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.”
Wright was wrongly convicted of raping and murdering 77-year-old Louise Talley in 1991.
Less than 24 hours after the body was found, Wright was coerced into signing a false confession by Santiago and Devlin, according to the grand jury’s findings submitted to the court. This confession was a handwritten document that was fabricated by the detectives, according to the grand jury document.
“[The confession] describes how Wright raped and stabbed the victim repeatedly … During the interrogation detectives refused to accept Wright’s claims of innocence and insisted he committed the crime,” the document reads.
Decades later, further DNA testing placed a different man, Ronnie Byrd, at the scene of the crime and proved that he raped and killed Talley, according to the court filing. Despite this newfound evidence, prosecutors at the time pursued a retrial for Wright.
“At the 2016 retrial, 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 him,” the court document reads. The 2016 jury deliberated for less than an hour before acquitting Wright.
An attorney for the three men, Brian McMonagle, denied any wrongdoing by the former detectives.
“These good men dedicated their careers to fighting for justice for victims of crime,” McMonagle told CNN on Friday. “They are innocent of these charges and will be vindicated at trial.”
The grand jury, in coming to its conclusion of recommending perjury, reviewed testimony transcripts from the former detectives as well as the recordings from depositions conducted in 2017, according to Krasner.
The Philadelphia Police Department said it could not provide a comment to CNN given the ongoing investigation. However, it did note that the former detectives retired from the department “decades ago.”
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.