Man Convicted of Murder Freed by Evidence Authorities Hid for Over 30 Years

A Philadelphia man wrongfully convicted of murder is finally free after spending more than three decades behind bars.

“I feel exceedingly joyful, happy, that finally, you know … after 30 or more years, after constantly knocking on the door for somebody to please hear me, that day finally came,” 60-year-old Curtis Crosland said.

He has now returned home to his five children, fiancée and 32 grandchildren.

“It’s a great feeling to still be dad, to be wanted and desired, and open arms to receive you, that’s been the greatest part of being exonerated, that I come home to a loving family that wants and needs me,” said Crosland.

Crosland’s conviction – based on testimony from two witnesses who later recanted statements they had made implicating him in the case – was overturned in June.

His exoneration came after months of work by the Philadelphia Conviction Integrity Unit, established in 2018 by the office of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. The unit was set up to investigate claims of innocence and wrongful conviction. Crosland’s is the 22nd exoneration in which the unit has been involved, according to a news release from the CIU.

Crosland was found guilty in 1991 of second-degree murder, robbery, and possessing an instrument of crime in the 1984 killing of a Philadelphia store owner.

Documents that could have helped acquit or exonerate him were in files at the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office from the beginning of the case, according to the lawsuit.

The documents contained troubling information regarding the credibility of two key witnesses as well as police records which pointed to another suspect, the lawsuit states.But that information was suppressed and there was no other evidence that connected Crosland to the crime, the CIU said.

The two witnesses upon whose testimony Crosland’s conviction hinged had later recanted their statements implicating him, according to the lawsuit.One of them, Delores Tilghman, told police in 1988 that she overheard a conversation where Crosland and others were “talking about the murder.” She later recanted that statement, according to the lawsuit.

A second witness, Rodney Everett, told police officers that Crosland confessed to him that he carried out Heo’s killing. Everett was himself in jail at the time, and hoping for a deal, the lawsuit states.

Everett later testified that he had lied when implicated Crosland, according to the lawsuit.

Documents which included Everett’s statements were found in police and district attorney’s files by the CIU.

Flores said it’s common for “jailhouse snitches” to provide information to authorities to obtain leniency in their own cases. Everett told Flores when she interviewed him about Crosland’s case that he felt coerced by police to give testimony, she said.

“It was just very brutal. They threaten you. They will use your family and they will tell you what they will do to your family, taking your kids,” Everett said.