A Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge dismissed the convictions of two men serving life sentences.  The dismissals were based upon faulty eyewitness testimony and on new evidence.  Judge Rosa Marie DeFino-Nastasi found the 1998 trial evidence against Pennsylvania Innocence Project client Eugene Gilyard  and his co-defendant Lance Felder to be “terribly weak.”  She ordered new trials for both men.

Gilyard and Felder were 18 years old when they were convicted of the 1995 shooting death of a restaurant owner.  The victim’s daughter was the only eyewitness to the crime and she has contradicted her description of the shooter multiple times.  In 1995, she told police the suspect was light-skinned, but at trial she told the jury he was dark-skinned.  She said the perpetrators were six feet tall and about 26 years old. Gilyard is 5’8” and Felder is 5’6”, but were only 16 at the time.

DeFino-Nastasi said, “We can’t have these inconsistencies in a case based solely on identification.”

In addition, the PA Innocence Project obtained a 2011 confession of the crime from a man serving a life sentence for another murder.  The prosecution claims the man was offered money by supporters of Gilyard and Felder to lie, but Judge DeFino-Nastasi said the man had been named a suspect by police from the beginning of the case.  The District Attorney’s Office has 30 days to decide if it will appeal.  Gilyard and Felder have served 15 years in prison.

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