Theophalis ‘Bilaal’ Wilson was a teenager when he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for his involvement in a triple murder he did not commit in North Philadelphia in 1989.
Now 48, Wilson has been freed by Common Pleas Court Judge Tracy Brandeis-Roman on January 21, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
“Theophalis Wilson, you are free to go,” Judge Brandeis-Roman said.
Wilson’s exoneration was facilitated by District Attorney Larry Krasner’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU), making him the 12th wrongfully convicted person to gain their freedom under the program.
“It is time for Mr. Wilson to be allowed to go home — that he go home a free man, and that he go home with an apology,” unit chief Patricia Cummings said. “No words can express what we put these people through. What we put Mr. Wilson through. What we put his family through.”
Another codefendant in the case, Christopher Williams, was also exonerated a month earlier.
“This is a great day,” Wilson said after his release. “Now we got to go back and get the other guys. There’s a lot of innocent people in jail.”
“It’s a beautiful day,” his mother, Kim Wilson also said. “I just thank God it finally happened.”
Wilson and Williams were convicted in 1992 for the murder of Otis Reynolds, Kevin Anderson and Gavin Anderson. According to the Inquirer, prosecutors in the case did not hand over exculpatory evidence. James White, a man who confessed to six murders testified against Wilson and Williams.
He, however, recanted his testimony, claiming he falsely testified in a deal to escape the death penalty and also be released after 15 years. Forensic experts, during a 2013 hearing on Williams’ case also confirmed White’s testimony did not corroborate with the physical evidence as he claimed the bodies of the victims were discharged off a moving van at different locations in the city.
“For decades and with some frequency, it appears that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office failed to comply with its obligations in regard to Brady,” Cummings wrote.
Brady v. Maryland is a 1963 Supreme Court ruling that states that prosecutors must hand over material exculpatory evidence, the Inquirer further reports.
“Wilson’s trial was infected by serious prosecutorial misconduct, Brady violations, a critical witness who supplied false testimony, and ineffective assistance of counsel,” a filing by the District Attorney’s Office stated.