By Mei Perez and Hannah Adams
CHESTER, PA – More than 40 years ago, Leroy Evans was convicted for the murder of Emily Leo, but recent investigations revealed evidence that supports his claims of innocence.
And now, after a two-year investigation by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, Evans’ Defense Attorney Michael Malloy has filed a petition with the court for a new hearing.
Malloy and Evans’ family are convinced he will soon be declared innocent and be released after decades of defending his innocence.
Last week, prominent members of the Pennsylvania community, including Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, State Sen. Anthony Williams, the Delaware County Black Caucus and the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration, came together with Evans’ loved ones to push for his release.
“We are optimistic,” Attorney Malloy said, adding, “I’ve been on this case for six years now, and all we’ve really ever asked is for someone to listen, listen to him, and to just take a look. [His guilty verdict] doesn’t make any sense, it makes no sense at all.”
Malloy filed a petition asking for the court to review the case in hopes of securing Evans’ release. According to the petition, the Attorney’s Office’s investigation pointed toward a wrongful conviction.
Malloy asserts the investigation discovered a disconnect between the statement given by Jones and the crime scene. Despite confessing to bludgeoning Leo to death, “There wasn’t a drop of blood in that house,” said Malloy.
Evans, 24 at the time of his conviction, was likely forced into pleading guilty, as he was threatened with the death sentence, said Malloy.
Eric Evans of Chester, Evan’s nephew, was only three years old when his uncle was convicted.
“It was devastating for us as a family,” said Eric Evans. “He was that male figure that we all looked to. They took away our male matriarch … No one can hear our voice. We’ve been crying out for 42 years.”
Evan’s family has been fighting for his freedom for the past 41 years, and say this moment is “bittersweet.”
Niecy Evans, Evan’s sister, admitted that they desperately want to embrace their brother again, noting, “We want to come and put our arms around him. We’re waiting for him. He’s getting ready to come here into some joy.”
Evans’ case is one in an extensive series of wrongful convictions that occurred during the 1980s and ’90s throughout the community. This injustice is what partly inspired Attorney General Josh Shapiro to create the Conviction Integrity Unit in 2020.