Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner's office on Thursday dropped all charges against Willie Stokes, who was wrongfully imprisoned for 37 years on a murder conviction. Photo by Larry Krasner/Twitter
Jan. 27 (UPI) -- A Philadelphia man who spent 37 years in prison for murder had all charges against him dropped by the district attorney's office Thursday.
Willie Stokes was originally released from prison earlier this month after a federal court judge vacated his conviction, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Stokes was tried and convicted in 1984 for the murder of Leslie Campbell and sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.
But since that time, the key witness that testified against him maintained that he was coerced into doing so by homicide detectives, who bribed him with sexual favors and drugs.
Franklin Lee recanted his testimony and was soon after prosecuted for perjury.
Lee also testified that prosecutors told him he would receive a favorable deal on his open cases in exchange for testimony against Stokes.
There was no other evidence linking Stokes directly to the crime and the district attorney's office did not disclose Lee's perjury conviction to Stokes, which could have aided in his appeal process.
"After a thorough and independent review, the federal court determined that Mr. Stokes was the victim of an egregious violation of his constitutional rights, and we are convinced that the federal court's ruling was correct," Matthew Stiegler, who serves as supervisor of the district attorney's federal litigation unit, told the Inquirer.
The so-called sex-for-lies scheme was reportedly widespread at the time.
Earlier this month, the Inquirer reported on five other men serving time in prison who claim they were put there by the same Philadelphia detectives.
It accused the men, who have both have since died, of trading drugs and sexual favors in exchange for false testimony to secure convictions.
Stokes has now filed a lawsuit against the estates of both deceased detectives, as well as two former prosecutors and the City of Philadelphia.
"This remarkable case is marked by prosecutorial and policing practices that were too pervasive during the so-called tough-on-crime 1980s and 1990s, and unfortunately persist in far too many jurisdictions today," Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement earlier this month.