After more than a dozen years in prison, a Philadelphia man is free


Philadelphia CNN —C.J.
Rice is a free man, and as of Monday morning the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania officially considers him legally innocent of the crime he was convicted of in 2013.
Rice’s defense counsel — Karl Schwartz and Amelia Maxfield, who successfully filed the habeas petition to get Rice out of prison and have his conviction overturned — can now pursue having his criminal record expunged of attempted murder charges.
“For me personally, I’m glad to see this wrong righted,” Rice told CNN.
Because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s judicial system had at least five separate times to correct this specific situation, and chose not to act in the interest of justice.
For that, the Pennsylvania Court system is blameworthy and not worthy of any confidence.
Nonetheless, my comment to any DA, state, prosecutor, commonwealth who has an innocent person behind bars, let them free!”Man incarcerated as a teen is freed after more than 12 years in prisonRice’s release was more than a dozen years in the making.
A correspondence between Rice and Dr. Tapper began, one that resulted in my father hiring attorneys to help Rice and getting me interested in covering the story.
“The ruling this morning was the correct one – except C.J.
never should have been charged with any crime in the first place,” Dr. Tapper told me.
“He’s been locked up by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for 12 years for a crime he had nothing to do with.
The legal system churns on its own merry way and justice is seldom found.
now has a chance to start building a life, 12 years of which were taken away from him without any compensation.
Habeas corpus is a legal principle that allows people who believe they are being held unlawfully in prison or detention to challenge it.
Leading up to dropping his charges today, Krasner’s office in September acknowledged that Rice did not have adequate counsel.
The DA’s office has acknowledged in recent months that the case handled by prior prosecutors was weak from the start and that there wasn’t much actual evidence tying Rice to the crime.
“The thing that likely resulted in his conviction was that his defense council was so ineffective,” the DA source told CNN.
Courtesy Crystal CooperIt is extremely rare for a court to grant a habeas petition based on arguments dealing with a defendant’s right to adequate counsel.
In 2022, the US Supreme Court took steps to make it even more difficult for a defendant to claim inadequate counsel.
Rice’s case getting overturned is an anomaly.
“More than anything we are incredibly glad that this innocent fellow citizen has finally been granted his long-overdue exoneration and freedom,” Schwartz said in a statement.
Rice could barely walk.
Days later, a separate family was shot at on a street in South Philadelphia, causing injury but thankfully no deaths or serious injury.
Witnesses described one or two men who fired and then ran away.
That night, no suspects were identified, even though the victims had known Rice for years.
There is no recording or even detailed notes of the conversation in which she picked out Rice.
The Philadelphia police have since changed procedures regarding police lineups.
The court appointed Sandjai Weaver to represent Rice.
Rice’s co-defendant, who had a different attorney, was acquitted in the same trial.
“Even the judge wondered about admitting it.”But Weaver did not object.
“It was definitely prejudicial,” the source said.
Though the witness knew Rice, she didn’t identify him the night of the shooting in three separate conversations with police.
Weaver did not point that out in trial.
Even there, however, the witness’ testimony would likely not stand up to any decent defense attorney, the DA’s office believes.
The witness claimed Rice’s long braids were visibly popping out in front of his face from under a hoodie when he attacked them.
But when Rice turned himself in to police at the end of September 2011, his hair was in tight, but fraying, cornrows.
Therefore, the witness’ memory of his long braids did not match what he looked like.
(He did have long braids in the photo from the police lineup, from a months-earlier booking photo for a drug charge, it might be noted.)
“If we retried him, all that evidence would come in and the jury would likely have doubts,” the DA source said.
Crucial phone records that were never pursuedAnother part of the DA’s investigation helped them arrive at this decision.
There are no records that the police ever subpoenaed the phone records.
Rice said he repeatedly asked his attorney, Weaver, to pursue such records.
Krasner’s office also noted that Rice’s mother, Crystal Cooper, worked at the DA’s office at the time and was essentially shown the door and given another job once her son was arrested.
“That’s not how we would treat an employee today,” the source said.
“Instead, on the morning of trial, Rice’s counsel stipulated that the evidence could come in.
In response to the petition, Assistant District Attorney Peter Andrews a

Philadelphia CNN —.

D. A. J. As of Monday morning, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania formally regarded Rice as legally innocent of the offense for which he was found guilty in 2013. Rice is now free.

Judge James Eisenhower granted the motion made by District Attorney Larry Krasner this morning in room 805 of the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia. Rice was sentenced to more than a dozen years in prison for a shooting incident in 2011 that he maintains he did not and could not have physically committed.

Rice’s defense attorneys, Karl Schwartz and Amelia Maxfield, are now able to seek having the attempted murder charges against him removed from his criminal record. Rice and Maxfield filed the habeas petition successfully in an effort to get Rice out of prison and have his conviction reversed.

In her own words, Rice told CNN, “I’m happy to see this wrong put right.”. It cannot be deemed an error. The legal system of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had the opportunity to address this particular situation at least five times, but declined to take appropriate action in the interest of justice. After reviewing the case, the Pennsylvania courts either decided to allow a blatant injustice to continue unchecked as long as no one else knew about it, or they declined to do so because the public trust granted them the authority to do so. The Pennsylvania court system should not be trusted because of this. It is to blame. However, I would advise any district attorney, state attorney, prosecutor, or commonwealth that has an innocent person incarcerated to release them.

After serving more than 12 years in prison as a teenager, a man is released from prison.

It took over a dozen years to finally release Rice. When Rice was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the 2011 shooting, we informed you about his case on CNN and in a cover story published in The Atlantic in October 2022. The story highlighted the numerous ways in which Rice lacked competent legal representation.

When Rice was 17 years old and recovering from another shooting, he could hardly walk, much less run, as the shooters were reported to have done. This is how I first learned about the Rice case from my father, Dr. Theodore S. Tapper, who was Rice’s pediatrician in 2011. Dr. Tapper testified that he did not think Rice was physically capable of carrying out the 2011 shooting.

In 2016, Rice requested my father’s assistance in obtaining medical records from his shooting that were never presented during the trial. The records indicated that Rice had a fractured pelvis during the alleged running incident that occurred during the crime. Rice and Dr. Tapper started corresponding, which led to my father hiring lawyers to support Rice and piqued my interest in reporting the story.

Except for C, the decision made this morning was correct. I. J. never ought to have been charged with any offense at all,” Dr. Tapper informed me. “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has imprisoned him for a crime he had no involvement in for a period of twelve years. Justice is seldom served by the legal system, which churns on its own merry way. C. A. J. has the opportunity to begin creating a life after having 12 years stolen from him without any payback. This is not justice, as the headline of an article in The Atlantic about his case states. “.

Following our publication of Rice’s story, Rice’s new legal representative, Schwartz, submitted a habeas corpus in December 2022. The petition specifically contended that Rice’s previous legal representative had negligently stipulated to evidence that offered an explanation for the alleged shootings. A legal doctrine known as habeas corpus gives those who feel that their imprisonment or detention is not authorized to contest it.

Judge Nitza I. arrived a year later. With the finding that Rice’s “trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance,” United States District Judge Quiñones Alejandro for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted Rice’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, overturning his conviction and directing Pennsylvania to decide within 180 days whether to retry him or free him.

Before dismissing Rice’s charges today, Krasner’s office acknowledged in September that Rice lacked sufficient legal representation. According to a source with the office who spoke to CNN, Krasner’s sentencing review committee concluded that they could not persuade a jury that Rice was responsible for the September 25, 2011, shooting without a reasonable doubt. As a result, the committee recommended that Pennsylvania drop the case against Rice.

The DA’s office has admitted in recent months that there wasn’t much concrete evidence linking Rice to the crime and that the case handled by previous prosecutors was flawed from the beginning. The DA insider told CNN that “the reason he was convicted was probably because of how incompetent his defense council was.”.

D. J. Pork. With permission from Crystal Cooper.

A habeas petition based on arguments pertaining to a defendant’s right to adequate counsel is incredibly rare for a court to grant. Several attempts to do this have been turned down by higher courts in the past, thereby giving the go-ahead for defense lawyers who were inebriated when their clients were being cross-examined, arrested for driving under the influence while en route to court, mentally ill, or even disbarred halfway through a trial. The US Supreme Court took action in 2022 to further increase the difficulty of a defendant claiming they had inadequate representation. The fact that Rice’s case was reversed is unusual.

Schwartz released a statement saying, “More than anything, we are incredibly glad that this innocent fellow citizen has finally been granted his long-overdue exoneration and freedom.”. “Throughout his unjust imprisonment, his unwavering spirit and unwavering belief that he would be exonerated were astounding. “.

The way in which Rice was found guilty.

Rice saw his pediatrician, Dr. Tapper, following his release from the hospital following a shooting in September 2011. Rice had trouble even walking. A few days later, shots were fired at a different family on a South Philadelphia street, inflicting minor injuries but fortunately no fatalities. One or two men fired, according to witnesses, and then fled.

The victims had known Rice for years, but no suspects were named that night. However, the following day, when the police re-interviewed the victims following their purported receipt of an anonymous tip, one of them unexpectedly identified Rice as one of the shooters in a photo lineup. The conversation in which she identified Rice is not recorded, nor are there even thorough notes. Since then, the police in Philadelphia have modified their policies on police lineups.

As Rice’s attorney, the court selected Sandjai Weaver. Our investigation found that Weaver was an underpaid and overworked defense lawyer who acted incompetently and made mistake after mistake in her insufficient defense of Rice. Rice was found guilty in 2013 of a crime for which no one was even slightly injured, and she was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. The other defendant in the case, Rice, was found not guilty during the same trial. Weaver passed away in 2019.

The DA source claimed that Weaver “allowed things to come into evidence before the jury that shouldn’t have,” specifically the notion that Rice was taking part in revenge after being shot a few weeks earlier. “.

The source stated that at the time, neither the Philadelphia police nor the district attorney had any evidence linking those two crimes. Furthermore, there is no proof that Rice belonged to a neighborhood gang in Philadelphia, despite the fact that this information had also been admitted into evidence. According to the DA source, “any competent defense attorney would have fought vigorously against allowing that information to be put before the jury.”. Even the judge was unsure whether to acknowledge it. “.

Weaver did not, however, object.

The source declared, “It was unquestionably prejudiced.”. In contrast to his co-defendant, who was found not guilty, we believe it led to his conviction. “.

Witness testimony from one of the shooting victims was the only evidence used against Rice, and since that trial in 2013, the victim has shown herself to be uncooperative with the DA’s office, further undermining the likelihood of any future prosecution of Rice.

Despite knowing Rice, the witness failed to identify him in three separate interviews with police on the evening of the shooting. Weaver made no mention of that during the trial.

The DA’s office feels that even in that case, the witness’ testimony probably wouldn’t hold up against a competent defense lawyer. When Rice attacked them, the witness said he could clearly see his long braids peeking out in front of his face from under a hoodie. However, Rice had his hair in tight but fraying cornrows when he turned himself in to the police at the end of September 2011. After consulting with people who had gotten similar hairstyles and licensed hairstylists, the DA’s office came to the conclusion—based on photos—that the man’s hair had been in cornrows when he turned himself in for about three to four weeks, the DA source said. Thus, the witness’s recollection of his lengthy braids did not correspond with his appearance. (Note that he did, in the police lineup photo, have long braids from a booking photo taken months prior for a drug charge. ).

The DA source stated, “All that evidence would come in and the jury would likely have doubts if we retried him.”.

vital phone records that were never looked into.

This decision was made with the assistance of another aspect of the DA’s investigation. Rice claims that he gave his cell phone to the police when he turned himself in, thinking that they would check phone records and discover that he was in West Philadelphia, not South Philadelphia, where the shooting had occurred, at the time of the crime. The phone records were never subpoenaed by the police, according to any records.

Rice claimed to have urged Weaver, his lawyer, to look for these records on several occasions. Nevertheless, she never did. However, the district attorney’s office overheard Rice on tape pleading with his mother to persuade Weaver to look into the phone records in order to establish his alibi for the crime he did not commit. This was while the office was listening to old, recorded phone calls made at the courthouse.

Additionally, Rice’s mother, Crystal Cooper, who was employed by the DA’s office at the time, was essentially fired and given a new job after her son was arrested, according to Krasner’s office.

The person said that if this had occurred today, the office would have provided Rice with a shield in the form of adequate defense representation and would have examined the case for conflicts and potentially referred it to the Pennsylvania attorney general.

The source declared, “That’s not how we would treat an employee today.”. “Rice would naturally be given the benefit of the doubt, and we wouldn’t put her to death. “.

the ultimate 180 days.

Schwartz’s petition centered on Weaver’s consent to stipulate “to an otherwise inadmissible fact that established a motive for Rice to commit the crime,” despite the fact that Weaver made numerous errors. “.

The shooting, according to the prosecution’s theory, was revenge for one of the victims shooting Rice three weeks prior. But neither the prosecution nor the police could produce any hard proof that the victim was responsible for the previous shooting, and the trial court was ready to throw out the motive evidence because it was more prejudicial than helpful, Schwartz wrote.

Rather, the day of the trial, Rice’s attorney made a stipulated agreement for the evidence to be admitted. Since the evidence was inadmissible otherwise and could only have harmed her client, trial counsel’s decision to consent to that stipulation was objectively unreasonable. “.

The campaign to free Rice included not only Schwartz but also attorneys Ginger Anders of Munger, Tolles and Olson, LLP, Maxfield and Nilam Sanghvi of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, and former Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.

The US Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, which protects a defendant’s right to counsel, did not grant Rice the protections that Assistant District Attorney Peter Andrews acknowledged last fall in response to the petition. Rice was “due habeas relief,” according to him, which is a fundamental constitutional right that guards against wrongful and unjustifiable incarceration. He claimed that because Rice had received inadequate legal representation.

As a result, Andrews wrote, “the Commonwealth humbly requests that the Court grant a conditional writ of habeas corpus and order that Rice be released from custody or retried within 180 days.”. “.

After serving more than a dozen years in prison, Rice’s 180 days are now up.

The issues that resulted in C. I. J. ‘s wrongful conviction—untrustworthy eyewitnesses, inadequate legal counsel, and shoddy police work—infect so many cases in Philadelphia and nationwide, according to Maxfield, who is currently an attorney with the Exoneration Project. “We are overjoyed that C. I. J. is safe and secure, and we intend to keep fighting for those who aren’t. “.

Jeremy Herb of CNN helped with this report.

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