As the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, Chief of the Conviction Integrity Unit, Patricia Cummings acknowledged:
“It is time for Mr. Wilson to be allowed to go home — that he go home a free man, and that he go home with an apology. No words can express what we put these people through. What we put Mr. Wilson through. What we put his family through.”
(See the Philadelphia Inquirer article here)
Theo left prison an innocent man with nothing but 13 boxes of legal materials and the love and support of his family, friends, and community. He spent his time in prison studying the law, fighting his own case and helping other prisoners. Now that he is released, Theo is committed to helping other innocent prisoners fight for their freedom. However, Pennsylvania law does not provide for any financial support for prisoners who are wrongfully convicted. Arrested when he was only 19 years old, Theo needs help rebuilding his life.
This gofundme was first created six years ago to help free BilaalTheo. Now that he is free, please consider donating.
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In 1991, Theophalis Wilson was arrested for a 1989 triple homicide that occurred when he was just 17 years old. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole, solely based on the testimony of a criminal informant. James White gave at least eight conflicting statements before testifying that he witnessed Theo’s co-defendants, Chris Williams and Rick Bennett, shoot and throw two of the victims out of a moving van, while Theo drove a car alongside the van. Though the physical evidence refuted White’s testimony, the court precluded counsel from cross-examining the prosecution’s witnesses about those inconsistencies. The jury sentenced Theo to life without parole and Mr. Williams to death, and acquitted Mr. Bennett.
In 2013, Theo's conviction and sentence were vacated after his attorneys presented testimony from a forensic expert that the physical evidence was “incompatible” with White’s narrative. In upholding the lower court’s decision in 2016, the Pennsylvania Superior Court observed, contrary to the trial prosecutor, the “forensic evidence revealed that the victims were shot in the locations where they were found.” Williams’ post-conviction counsel also presented testimony from White and his mother about frequent, in person meetings with the trial prosecutor, who coerced White into confessing to and implicating others in six different murders. Those allegations led to numerous charges. In six instances juries refused to return convictions.
In February 2019, the DA’s office shared its file with Theo's pro bono attorneys. After reviewing the 42,576 page file, counsel filed a petition arguing that numerous critical exculpatory documents, previously withheld from the defense, conclusively proved Theo's innocence. After charges against Mr. Williams were officially dismissed, on January 13, 2020, the DA and counsel for Mr. Wilson filed joint stipulations, agreeing that the Commonwealth had suppressed key documents undermining the prosecution’s theory at trial. Both parties also agreed that the trial prosecutor and defense attorney knew but failed to disclose that a witness for the prosecution had previously cooperated with law enforcement to curry favor. The DA also filed an answer in which it agreed that Theo Wilson had been wrongfully convicted:
“At trial, Wilson and his co defendants found themselves adrift in a perfect storm of prosecutorial misconduct, Brady violations, false testimony, and ineffective assistance of counsel. As a result, Wilson was wrongfully imprisoned for nearly three decades, [and] subject to a mandatory sentence all agree constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.” – Commonwealth’s Answer to Petition for Post-Conviction Relief
Despite receiving a sentence that offered no hope for release, Theo Wilson used his time in prison to educate himself and be of service to others. He is a dedicated student of the law and a devoted Muslim. He taught himself to write and speak Arabic. Remarkably, in twenty-eight years of incarceration, he never incurred a single disciplinary infraction. Even from behind bars, Theo remained an integral support to his community, friends and family.
- Kevin Murphy
- Brendan OSullivan
- PAULA ONAH
- Bri Lacy
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