Judge Finally Agrees to Release First Woman Exonerated by Philly Conviction Integrity Unit  

Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner

By Elina Sadeghian

PHILADELPHIA, PA India Spellman—after 12 years in prison but now found not guilty—last week became the first woman to be exonerated since the Conviction Integrity Unit was formed by District Attorney Larry Krasner in 2018.

In 2010, India Spellman and co-accused Von Combs were arrested by Philadelphia Police during the course of an investigation of two criminal incidents, including a robbery and the murder of George Greaves, a World War II veteran.

Spellman, who was only a 17-year-old teenager, was “placed under arrest and interrogated alone by a homicide detective who had an established record of misconduct regarding interrogations at the time,” explained DA Krasner.

In 2019, an investigation was started by CIU Supervisor ADA Michael Garmisa, Assistant Supervisor ADA Carrie Wood, and ADA Graham in response to Spellman’s Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition that uncovered numerous instances of official misconduct and violations of her constitutional rights. 

New information provided by testifying co-defendant Von Combs established a nexus between official misconduct and this case; and a handwritten note memorializing that a witness told the district attorney’s office that she did not see the perpetrator’s face, which would have raised substantial doubts about that witness’s suggestive identification of Spellman.

Spellman also told the CIU that she was physically assaulted while being interrogated.

Last June 24, 2022, the DA’s CIU informed Judge Scott DiClaudio that serious Brady violations rendered Spellman’s trial unconstitutional and that her conviction should therefore be vacated. 

The judge initially denied the ruling, but did order several additional hearings, during which time the CIU filed supplemental motions restating its findings of fact regarding Spellman’s PCRA while Spellman remained in custody. 

On Feb. 3, the CIU filed a fourth brief concluding Spellman was likely innocent of the 2010 murder of George Greaves and again urging the court to grant her relief by vacating her conviction and sentence. 

And Thursday, Judge DiClaudio acknowledged a written victim-impact statement of Greaves’ closest surviving family member but refused to allow the CIU to read the statement into the record.  

Myrtle Ryan, the closest surviving relative of George Greaves, stated in the full victim impact statement to the court, I was present at India’s trial in 2013 and have read accounts of the concerns over her conviction as well as been informed by my daughter who has attended the recent hearings of the present proceedings. I am now convinced that India did not murder Bud and am greatly saddened that she has become another victim of this incident through no fault of her own. 

“I am requesting that you consider favorable the petitions before you to grant a new trial and declare her innocent. We are devastated knowing that Bud’s killer has never been apprehended and that India has spent 12 years in prison for a crime she did not commit.”

“After multiple additional hearings and filings by my office, a judge today finally granted Ms. Spellman the relief she is due and granted our motion to exonerate her completely. Ms. Spellman’s release from state custody is overdue. I extend my deepest condolences to the family of George Greaves,” said DA Krasner. 

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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