Flashpoint Extra: Another Philadelphia man exonerated after serving 28 years in prison for 3 murders he didn't commit

Flashpoint
January 24, 2020 - 4:00 am
An investigator, Jennifer Merrigan, and Theophalis "Bilaal" Wilson.

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Philadelphia man is celebrating his freedom after serving 28 years behind bars for a triple murder he did not commit, and the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office has apologized, citing prosecutorial misconduct.

"A lot of prayer, a lot of hard work and a lot of discipline and patience," was how Theophalis "Bilaal" Wilson said he mentally got through the past 28 years.

Wilson was just 19 when he was sentenced to life behind bars for the 1989 murder of Kevin and Gavin Anderson and Otis Reynolds. In 1992, prosecutors argued it was a gun deal gone wrong, ending with the victims shot and thrown out of a van. 

One co-defendant got the death penalty, another was acquitted. Last year, the DA's office turned over 42,000 pages from its file to reveal major issues with the case.

"The prosecution's story was false. It did not match up with the physical evidence," said Jennifer Merrigan, an attorney with Phillips Black. She took Wilson's case for free in 2018, five years after the other co-defendant who was convicted was exonerated.  

"Bilaal just continued to languish in prison because he did not have council," she said.

Merrigan worked the case along with a group of pro bono lawyers from Greenberg Traurig. 

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They reviewed the pages and discovered misconduct and a cover-up.

"After going through all I have been through," said Wilson, "it's still unbelievable. It was an amazing experience, but negative."

Wilson says he got an education while on the inside, getting his legal assistant certificate by taking classes in the prison from the University of Pennsylvania.

"When I got in there, I made up my mind. I said you gotta stay focused, stay sharp and turn jail into Yale," he said. 

And on Tuesday, Wilson walked free, and he's hoping there will be others.

"It's a lot of guys in there that should be home," he said.

Both Merrigan and Wilson note that there may be grounds for a civil rights lawsuit, although they refused to comment at this point on whether one would be filed in the coming weeks.

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