For more than 20 years, Anthony Wright has lived in prison, convicted of the rape and murder of 77-year-old Louise Talley.  Talley was stabbed to death on Oct. 9, 1991.  This week, Common Pleas Court Judge D. Webster Keough granted Wright, now 43, a new trial telling Wright that he is “presumed innocent until proven guilty.”  The District Attorney’s Office has announced that they will retry Wright even though DNA testing of Talley’s rape kit found the DNA of a man who died last year in South Carolina.  Assistant District Attorney Mark Gilson said the decision to retry Wright was made out of fairness to address “scientific evidence that simply was not available when this case was tried in 1993.”

Gilson, Robin Godfrey and Barbara Paul, two prosecutors who work in the appeals unit, now maintain that all the DNA evidence proves is that Wright had a previously unknown accomplice and that the totality of evidence still “overwhelmingly” proves he was the murderer.  Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School in New York sparred in the halls of the courthouse with Gilson when they were both questioned by reporters.  Gilson asked why Neufeld was there, while he was answering reporters’ questions, Neufeld responded that he didn’t want him to misrepresent the facts to the public.  Gilson called Neufeld rude for interrupting his time with reporters.

Wright did not speak at the hearing, but many of his family members told the media that they haven’t seen him in decades.  Deputies, in an unusual move, allowed the family members to walk by him.  No physical contact was allowed, but some of his relatives spoke to him or blew him kisses.

Wright’s son, Anthony Jr., 27, told reporters, “This is just an emotional day. I’m just happy the process has started. We’re not trying to rush our blessings but at least it’s in motion and I’m just very grateful that the light is starting to show.”

Wright is still being held at Graterford Prison, where he will soon be transferred to the city prison to await his retrial. The DNA tests on Talley’s body were linked through the federal DNA database to career criminal and drug addict Ronnie Byrd who died at the age of 62 last year.  Wright maintains his innocence and his defense attorneys say that Wright never even heard of Byrd before the DNA results came back.  Wright confessed to homicide detectives, but quickly recanted saying that he was coerced into signing a prewritten confession.

Prosecutors maintain that Wright confessed to the crime and that clothing that Wright was wearing that night was stained with Talley’s blood and were hidden under his bed.  Wright’s defense attorneys argue that the clothing never had any of Wright’s DNA on it, was planted by corrupt detectives, and belonged to the victim.

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