Attorneys for Nicholas Yarris, the Philadelphia man newly released from Pennsylvania’s death row because of DNA tests, said the case shows that the death penalty should be scrapped. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Yarris, 42, thanked the lawyers who worked to free him from his 22 years on death row. He was convicted in 1982 for the rape and murder of a woman, 32, who was abducted from a Delaware mall just before Christmas 1981. No weapon or fingerprints were found, but witnesses testified they had seen Yarris at the mall in the days before the murder. Jailhouse sources testified that Yarris had made incriminating statements, and the blood type of the murderer was the same rare type as his.
Last summer it was established that the DNA found on the victim was not his. A new trial ordered, but the prosecutor decided to drop the case.
Peter Goldberger, a lawyer for Yarris, declared that, “The death penalty is an irreversible outcome. In a system run by human beings, there is no room for a penalty of death.” Maureen Kearney Rowley, head of the Philadelphia federal defender’s office, which handled the appeal that finally led to Yarris’ freedom, said the release was “a very profound moment not only for Nick Yarris, but for the whole criminal justice system.”
Yarris said it was particularly stressful to see DNA evidence clear other prisoners nationwide while his case barely progressed for more than a decade.