With DNA Evidence, Jury Clears PA Man of Rape, Murder

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Balloon DNA. Photo by J. Nathan Matias via Flickr

Almost 25 years ago, Anthony Wright of Philadelphia was taken into custody at age 20, charged with the rape and murder of his 77-year-old neighbor. On Tuesday, Wright, now 44, walked out of prison a free man after a jury acquitted him in a retrial resulting from new DNA testing that proved another man was the rapist, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. A jury of seven women and five men deliberated about 90 minutes before returning the verdict.

Defense attorney Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project of New York, lambasted prosecutors for retrying Wright after the results of the DNA tests. “After the DNA results were known, we have 3 1/2 years where the District Attorney’s Office did nothing to reinvestigate this case or find out who Ronnie Byrd was,” Neufeld said. “It’s absolutely unconscionable and unacceptable.” The tests showed that sperm found inside the victim’s body belonged to Byrd, a former crack addict who died in a South Carolina prison at age 62. Wright, denied confessing to the crimes. He said he was berated by detectives for four hours before he was told he could leave if he signed some documents. He said he did so without reading them.

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