“I really feel exceedingly joyful, pleased, that lastly, you understand … after 30 or extra years, after consistently knocking on the door for any person to please hear me, that day lastly got here,” 60-year-old Curtis Crosland advised CNN.
He has now returned house to his 5 youngsters, fiancée and 32 grandchildren. “It is an awesome feeling to nonetheless be dad, to be wished and desired, and open arms to obtain you, that is been the best a part of being exonerated, that I come house to a loving household that desires and desires me,” mentioned Crosland.
Crosland’s conviction — based mostly on testimony from two witnesses who later recanted statements they’d made implicating him within the case — was overturned in June.
Crosland was discovered responsible in 1991 of second-degree homicide, theft, and possessing an instrument of crime within the 1984 killing of a Philadelphia retailer proprietor.
Paperwork that might have helped acquit or exonerate him had been in recordsdata on the Philadelphia Police Division and the Philadelphia District Lawyer’s Workplace from the start of the case, based on the lawsuit. The paperwork contained troubling info concerning the credibility of two key witnesses in addition to police data which pointed to a different suspect, the lawsuit states.
The killing of ‘Tony’ Heo
Il Man “Tony” Heo, a Philadelphia grocery and deli retailer proprietor, was killed by a masked shooter in 1984. Heo was shot simply minutes earlier than he was because of shut his retailer for the evening, based on Heo’s son Music Il “Charles” Heo.
“He was a extremely enjoyable man, humorous, constructive, smiling, joking particular person,” mentioned Heo’s son. Heo mentioned his father was very effectively preferred locally and had a repute for serving to folks.
The crime went unsolved for years and Crosland didn’t change into a suspect till 1987, based on his lawyer, Claudia Flores.
Crosland was working as an assistant to a bodily therapist and in 1987 was getting ready to attend school in hopes of turning into a bodily therapist himself.
“I received a knock at my door (from police), I bear in mind telling my spouse and son ‘I will be again,’ as a result of I did not do something. I by no means got here again. I by no means knew what I did, till they advised me what I used to be accused of. It is like a kidnap,” mentioned Crosland.
The 2 witnesses upon whose testimony Crosland’s conviction hinged had later recanted their statements implicating him, based on the lawsuit.
Considered one of them, Delores Tilghman, advised police in 1988 that she overheard a dialog the place Crosland and others had been “speaking in regards to the homicide.” She later recanted that assertion, based on the lawsuit.
A second witness, Rodney Everett, advised cops that Crosland confessed to him that he carried out Heo’s killing. Everett was himself in jail on the time, and hoping for a deal, the lawsuit states. Everett later testified that he had lied when implicated Crosland, based on the lawsuit. Paperwork which included Everett’s statements had been present in police and district legal professional’s recordsdata by the CIU.
Flores mentioned it’s normal for “jailhouse snitches” to offer info to authorities to acquire leniency in their very own instances. Everett advised Flores when she interviewed him about Crosland’s case that he felt coerced by police to present testimony, she mentioned.
CNN has reached out to Tilghman and Everett for remark however has not heard again.
Krasner mentioned the Philadelphia police and district legal professional’s workplace have traditionally violated their obligation to hunt justice and uphold the Structure.
CNN has additionally requested touch upon the Crosland case from the Philadelphia Police Division, however has not acquired a response.
Felony justice system ‘broke’
Crosland mentioned his case illustrates how the felony justice system is “broke, it is unfair, it is unconstitutional.”
He maintained his innocence whereas in jail and filed a number of petitions, appearing as his personal lawyer, which he says he realized to do whereas finding out regulation books within the jail’s library.
“You might have poor, indigent males that haven’t any entry to have a great protection. The system ought to be designed that each man be handled equally,” Crosland mentioned.
Crosland mentioned he went to court docket yearly throughout his time in jail to claim his innocence, however confronted closed doorways from the courts. “I do not assume I ever had a full evening’s sleep, however I all the time advised myself the day I am exonerated I’ll get my full evening’s sleep,” he mentioned.
Crosland mentioned his religion in God saved him sturdy — however that jail was nonetheless a “hellish” wrestle day by day.
It is difficult to have somebody let you know when you’re allowed to do basic items akin to get up, bathe, or work, “particularly by younger (jail) guards who can generally be disrespectful,” he mentioned.
One of many hardest challenges for Crosland, he mentioned, was being away from his household.
One his sons, Risheen Crosland, was solely 2 years previous when his father was despatched to jail. When Crosland was exonerated, Risheen was 36 and had two youngsters of his personal.
“We confronted plenty of childhood trauma not having a father … and grew up in poverty,” Risheen Crosland advised CNN. “We did not have new garments, sporting hand me downs, having to be hungry at instances … fuel turned off, electrical energy turned off,” he mentioned.
Past missing monetary safety, he did not get to type a traditional relationship along with his dad, he mentioned. “I did not learn to trip a motorbike, play catch, play basketball or soccer (with my dad).” I did not have these issues rising up with my dad,” he mentioned.
Sufferer’s son believes racism performed a job
Heo mentioned he’s pleased that Crosland has lastly been exonerated in his father’s killing. “I firmly imagine Crosland ought to have been a free man,” he mentioned.
Heo believes racism performed a job in how the police and the prosecutor tried Crosland’s case — and that the prosecutor was racially prejudiced in opposition to his family.
“I believe the prosecutor took benefit of my mother’s incapacity of understanding all of the problems of the authorized matter. They did not really feel accountable to elucidate all of the authorized particulars to us,” he mentioned.
“There was no translator throughout court docket proceedings, they had been utilizing Latin phrases. I did not know what was being mentioned, I did not have a cellphone with Google, plenty of issues slipped by.”
Flores mentioned each degree of the felony justice system is permeated with systemic racism, which contributed to Crosland’s wrongful conviction.
“Most individuals serving life in jail with out parole in Pennsylvania are Black males. In all probability most of those cops concerned are white. It is a system saturated with systemic racism at each step. From the way in which crimes are investigated, to jury choice, to the truth that most prosecutors and judges are white,” she mentioned.