Philadelphia Resident Exonerated at Urging of District Attorney’s Office for 2006 Murder

By Kaveh Nasseri

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Philadelphia resident David Sparks, convicted in 2008 of a murder for which he is most likely innocent, has been released from prison in light of new information surrounding the case, according to a statement this week by the District Attorney’s Office.

The announcement comes after the granting of a Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition from Sparks, who requested his conviction for the shooting of Gary Hall be vacated.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, “On Monday, the Court of Common Pleas granted the PCRA petition, and the CIU then moved to nolle pros all charges.”

Sparks, then a teenager, had first been detained for violating a curfew. In 2008, he was convicted for the murder of fellow teenager Hall, who had been shot to death in 2006. 

The District Attorney’s Office said an investigation by the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) found the rights of Sparks had been violated during his trial. 

The District Attorney’s Office wrote that these violations included the suppression of information relating to another suspect, Ivan Simmons, adding Simmons and his brother were considered suspects in the murder of Larres Curry, which occurred just a block away and days before the shooting of Hall.

“Based on Simmons’ link to both homicides and notes in the police file indicating that the ballistics evidence from both murders were the same caliber, the CIU requested that the Philadelphia Police Department’s Firearms Identification Unit conduct the ballistics comparison police failed to request in 2008,” wrote the District Attorney’s Office. 

Subsequent analysis revealed that the same weapon had been used in both murders.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Simmons was killed in December 2006. 

“Documents showing that PPD suspected that the Hall and Simmons murders were linked, and that the individuals involved believed Simmons was killed in retaliation for murdering Hall were not disclosed to the prosecutor or defense attorney prior to trial,” wrote the District Attorney’s Office.

Meanwhile, Nick Walker, who had been identified at the scene of Hall’s murder, was not interviewed by police until his arrest for a quadruple shooting in 2007, where he was charged with killing four of Hall’s associates. 

“This happened right after Ivan killed Gary. Money was on my head because I would hang with Ivan,” Walker said, noted the District Attorney’s Office.

New information about the case has since been uncovered, said the DA Office, explaining two teenage witnesses provided inconsistent information about the murder, with one of them recanting parts of her testimony against Sparks, stating “she was no longer confident in her identification of Sparks as the shooter,” (and)Simmons and his brother had been placed at the scene of the crime by several witnesses.

“In 2018, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Sparks’ innocence claims, which precluded him from eligibility for re-sentencing and release even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that life-without-parole sentences for juveniles (like Sparks) were unconstitutional,” wrote the District Attorney’s Office. “The report includes audio of Sparks calling 911 at the scene of Hall’s murder,” the District Attorney’s Office added.

CIU Supervisor Michael Garmisa thanked ADA Kylie Thompson and the CIU for pursuing “some measure of justice for the wrongful conviction of David Sparks in 2008,” wrote the District Attorney’s Office. 

“We also acknowledge the painful re-traumatization experienced by Gary Hall’s family throughout this process,” Garmisa said. “He and his loved ones, and all victims of violence, deserve a criminal legal system that seeks to avoid such devastating errors.”

About The Author

Kaveh Nasseri Mashhadi is a recent graduate of UCLA with a major in Political Science and a minor in History. He is passionate about journalism, immigration law, and international politics. He hopes to attend law school and pursue a legal career.

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