Willie Stokes, Cleared After Serving 37 Years in Prison, Files Suit Against Philadelphia

Willie Stokes filed a lawsuit against Philadelphia on Thursday after being freed from serving 37 years in prison for a murder in which the prosecution used perjured evidence to convict him and failed to disclose the information.

Stokes, 61, filed a lawsuit earlier this month accusing the city of "outrageous police misconduct" after being released for the 1984 murder case. A federal judge found prosecutors never revealed they charged their star witness with perjury following Stokes' murder conviction, the Associated Press reported.

The trial witness, Franklin Lee, was at police headquarters when officers offered him sex and drugs to frame Stokes for an unsolved murder, according to the AP. Lee identified Stokes as the murderer during the preliminary hearing but recanted his statement at the murder trial.

Nonetheless, Stokes was sentenced to life in prison. Just days later, Philadelphia prosecutors charged Lee with perjury over his initial testimony at the pretrial hearing. Stokes didn't find out about the charge until 2015, Fox News reported.

"I didn't believe it," Stokes told the AP. "I didn't believe that they would let something like that happen — that they knew, and they didn't tell me."

Fox News reported Lee told a federal judge in November he "fell weak and went along with the offer" when he provided false testimony where he said Stokes, a neighborhood friend, had confessed to the murder during a dice game.

The two detectives involved in the sex-for-lies are now deceased. Their estates were named as the defendants in the lawsuit. The AP said two prosecutors in the case are still alive and named as defendants. According to court files, one prosecutor said he doesn't remember the case.

Newsweek reached out to the Philadelphia Police Department but they declined to comment on the case because of pending litigation.

Stokes' conviction was vacated in federal court in December. A judge found the evidence suppressed by the prosecution "fatally undermines confidence" in his murder conviction, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office dropped all charges against Stokes Thursday. Prosecutors announced they would not be retrying the case against him.

"After a thorough and independent review, the federal court determined that Mr. Stokes was the victim of an egregious violation of his constitutional rights, and we are convinced that the federal court's ruling was correct," said Matthew Stiegler of the D.A.'s Office according to the Inquirer.

Stokes told the AP, "I'm not bitter. I'm just excited to move forward."

Willie Stokes Murder Conviction Overturned
Willie Stokes walks from a state prison in Chester, Pa., on, January 4, 2022, after his 1984 murder conviction was overturned because of perjured witness testimony. Stokes, whose murder case was officially dismissed at a court hearing Thursday, January 27, 2022, said he was not bitter but "just excited to move forward" in life. He was also filing a lawsuit Thursday against the city over the nearly four decades he spent in prison. Matt Rourke/AP Photo