By Elizabeth Garabedian
PHILADELPHIA, PA – District Attorney Larry Krasner late last Friday issued a statement addressing the charges of perjury and false swearing brought against former Philadelphia Police Homicide Detectives Manuel Santiago, Martin Delvin, and Frank Jastrzembski.
DA Krasner stated, “The 31st Philadelphia County Investigating grand jury has heard evidence and has issued a presentment in which they recommend criminal prosecution of three former Philadelphia Police Homicide Detectives for lying in 2016 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.”
Anthony Wright had been convicted of the 1991 rape and murder of 77-year-old Louise Talley in Philadelphia in 1993.
Wright has always maintained his innocence and, although the police who interrogated him said that he signed a confession while in custody, Wright argued that it was a coerced confession. It was only out of fear for his safety that he signed the confession because the interrogating officers threatened to physically harm him.
After serving 25 years in prison, Wright was exonerated in August of 2016 but only after he was retried by former DA Seth Williams from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. Wright’s wrongful conviction was overturned with DNA evidence that identified Ronnie Byrd as the real perpetrator, but DA Williams went ahead despite Wright’s indisputable innocence.
Byrd lived near the victim but had died in 2013, so he was not able to be questioned or tried for the crimes once Wright’s conviction was overturned. Wright was exonerated during the 2016 retrial after less than an hour of deliberation by a jury.
At Wright’s retrial and his civil rights lawsuit, detectives Santiago, Delvin, and Jastrzembski gave sworn statements and provided documentation against him. “Some of the sworn testimony and documentation these detectives provided form the basis for criminal charges (against them),” said DA Krasner.
The coerced false confession, known as the Santiago/Delvin confession, along with false testimony from Jastrzembski in regard to clothing from the victim’s home that he falsely claimed was found in Wright’s bedroom during a search of his house, led to Wright’s wrongful conviction.
While police claimed that Wright signed a confession after only spending 14 minutes in custody, DA Krasner went on the record to state the truth of the matter.
“Wright, then 20 years old, repeatedly told detectives he had no involvement or knowledge of the crime, and spent hours repeatedly crying for his mother, whom he could hear outside the interrogation room screaming for him,” Krasner said.
Despite Wright’s innocence and lack of knowledge of the rape and murder of Louise Talley, detectives Santiago and Delvin coerced Wright into signing a false confession less than a day after Talley’s body was discovered, the grand jury discovered.
The grand jury investigating Santiago, Delvin, and Jastrzembski determined that the detectives unlawfully coerced Wright into making a false confession and made explicit threats to physically harm Wright.
The grand jury noted the detectives then promised Wright that he would be released from custody if he signed the confession and initiated that he read it, despite the fact that the detectives prevented Wright from doing so.
“According to the presentment, Wright purportedly confessed that he was wearing a black Chicago Bulls sweatshirt, a pair of blue jeans, and a pair of black Fila sneakers while he committed the rape and murder,” said Krasner.
He added that, under oath, former Detective Jastrzembski testified that he had found the Chicago Bulls sweatshirt under Wright’s mattress while searching his home, and the jeans and sneakers were in his room.
The “wearer” DNA of the clothing that Jastrzembski had falsely reported finding at Wright’s residence belonged to Talley, which proved that Wright had not been wearing it, despite his false confession, the grand jury noted.
The statute of limitations has expired for certain crimes perpetrated by the former detectives during the investigation in 1991 and the 1993 trial so the “31st Investigating grand jury instead reviewed the detectives’ conduct during the 2016 retrial of Wright and the 2017 depositions for the civil lawsuit filed by Wright after his 2016 exoneration by a jury.”
During the 2016 retrial, Delvin and Santiago reiterated their false statements that Wright had willingly confessed to the crimes.
Peter Neufeld, who is Wright’s civil rights attorney, took the stand to testify to the grand jury about the retrial for Wright despite the DNA evidence, noting “Wright is the only DNA exoneration in the country where the prosecutor, then-DA Seth Williams, elected to retry the case despite overwhelming, scientific evidence of innocence.”
As noted in the presentment from the grand jury, Santiago, Delvin, and Jastrzembski falsely testified about “both the evidence used to convict Wright and their knowledge of the DNA evidence” while under oath during the retrial.
Santiago and Jastrzembksi both changed their sworn statements during Wright’s civil rights lawsuit about “former Assistant District Attorney Bridget Kirn, (speaking) about the DNA evidence clearing Wright prior to testifying at the 2016 retrial.”
The grand jury recommended that Santiago, Delvin, and Jastrzembski be held “accountable for lying under oath to condemn an innocent man and cover up their wrongdoing, and for perverting the integrity of law.
Upon the grand jury’s recommendation, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has approved and commenced prosecution for the following charges.
For the Santiago/Delvin confession at the 2016 retrial and the civil rights lawsuit deposition, Santiago was charged with two counts of perjury, and two counts of false swearing for false testimony. Santiago was also charged with one count of perjury and one count of false swearing for testimony in regards to his knowledge about the DNA evidence.
Delvin has also been charged with two counts of perjury and two counts of false swearing for false testimony for the Santiago/Delvin confession.
Jastrzembski has been charged for his testimony regarding the search of Wright’s residence, with two counts of perjury and two counts of false swearing for the 2016 retrial and 2017 deposition. In regards to his knowledge of the DNA evidence that proved Wright’s innocence, Jastrzembski was charged with one count of perjury and one count of false swearing for false testimony.