A Philadelphia man picked up his 11-year-old daughter from the bus stop for the very first time this week, after spending most of her young life in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.
Dontia Patterson was freed Wednesday after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office admitted to bungling the 2007 shooting investigation of Patterson's friend Antwine Jackson. A judge exonerated him and released him from the house arrest he had been under since March, CBS News reported. He spent 11 years behind bars.
In an “egregious example” of misconduct, police and prosecutors concealed evidence that would’ve likely kept Patterson, 29, out of prison, according to a court motion filed by the district attorney’s office and obtained by Oxygen.com.
Jackson was murdered on a street corner near Patterson’s home. At the time, Patterson rushed outside to be by his friend’s side.
Police and bystanders found him there crying out over his friend’s death. This behavior would have been unusual for someone who just committed a murder, assistant district attorney Anthony Voci noted in the motion.
The owner of a nearby store also told police he watched the entire event unfold, and that Patterson, who he knew from the neighborhood, was not the shooter.
Nonetheless, Patterson ended up in a squad car as cops' prime suspect.
Within days, an informant told police that the murder was likely carried out by two other people as the result of a drug turf war, according to police documents included in the motion. Still, they pursued the case against Patterson.
He was tried twice — with the first trial ending in a hung jury — and ultimately sentenced to life in prison in 2009.
The prosecution relied on two eyewitnesses, who testified that “Patterson must have left after the shooting, then changed his clothes before returning to the crime scene because the killer was wearing different clothes at the time of the shooting,” according to court documents.
In the latest motion, Voci called that argument “illogical.” He also noted that Patterson, who was the victim’s friend, had no motive for the crime, unlike the two other suspects, one of whom died in a separate shooting just five months later, blocks away from the site of Jackson’s murder.
Suppression of evidence, Voci noted in the motion, is most likely to occur in weak cases similar to the one against Patterson.
"I resent that they said I withheld evidence because I did not, and never have, and never been shown to or established by any court that I have. So that's nonsense," Richard Sax, a retired former prosecutor in the case, told CBS News.
Patterson was released to house arrest in March, because a judge ruled his previous lawyers' counsel during the original trials was ineffective. Wednesday's dismissal of the charges against him came at the request of the district attorney's office.
Patterson is trying to stay tough after his 11 lost years. He told CBS News that he is taking his new life "day-by-day, step-by-step."
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