The City of Philadelphia announced on Wednesday that it will pay $9.8 million to a Black man who spent almost three decades in prison for a murder he didn't commit.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Chester Hollman III was 21 when he was charged with the murder of a University of Pennsylvania student in 1991. Hollman, who had no criminal record and worked as an armored car driver and maintained his innocence from the moment he was arrested, was pulled over in Center City and charged for the death, which occurred during an alleged botched street robbery. After mounting evidence suggested police and prosecutors had coerced witnesses to provide fabricated statements and even withheld evidence that could've pointed to the real perpetrators, a judge ordered him to be released.
Hollman's case sadly isn't rare, as the city of Philadelphia has made similar wrongful conviction settlements in the past. Most notably, the city set a record for such settlements in 2018 when it paid $9.85 million to Anthony Wright, who served almost 25 years behind bars for a 1991 rape and murder that DNA later proved he did not commit.
Hollman and his lawyers have argued he was targeted by police because he was driving in a white SUV that allegedly matched the description of one that was saw leaving the scene of the shooting. Despite this, no physical evidence actually linked Hollman to the murder, and two of the witnesses that identified him at trial later recanted their statements. One had alleged they were threatened by police if she did not say it was Hollman, while the other said he agreed to share a fake testimony if the police helped his own then pending criminal case.
"There are no words to express what was taken from me,” said Hollman in a statement. “But this settlement closes out a difficult chapter in my life as my family and I now embark on a new one.” Hollman's case had received media attention before after a 2017 report from the Inquirer detailed his situation. Netflix also focused on his case in an episode of The Innocence Files, which debuted on the streaming service in April, 2020.
"There was irrefutable evidence that Chester was innocent, is innocent and has always been innocent and would never have been wrongfully convicted aside from extraordinary police misconduct," said Amelia Green, his attorney. "He’s doing the best he can to move forward. He’s an incredibly strong person.”