Philadelphia man exonerated and released after 15 years in prison for wrongful murder conviction

Officials announced that a Philadelphia man who spent half his life in prison for a wrongful conviction was released Monday.

David Sparks was 16 when he was charged with the murder of Gary Hall, a 19-year-old who was shot and killed during a block party in Nicetown on September 4, 2006. Sparks was in the area at the time of the shooting and called 911 for help, telling dispatchers to “hurry up” because someone was “possibly die“While police initially arrested Sparks for a curfew violation, they later charged him with Hall’s murder.

In 2008, he stood trial and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He was imprisoned there Pennsylvania State Correctional Facility in Phoenix since.

But on Monday, a Court of Common Pleas judge ruled that Sparks should be released from prison and his conviction overturned. He was released later that night, according to the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. The organization I posted a photo of Sparks, grinning with a Wawa coffee cup, on his social media on Tuesday.

The exoneration followed an investigation by the Conviction Integrity Unit, part of the District Attorney’s Office. The CIU uncovered several violations of Sparks’ constitutional rights during the trial. said investigators, including police suppressing information from witnesses who suspected another suspect, Ivan Simmons. Simmons was also considered a suspect in a murder that had occurred days earlier a block from the crime scene, but this information was covered up during the trial.

A subsequent ballistics analysis of evidence recovered in both murders, which police did not request in 2008, confirmed that the same weapon was used in both crimes. One of two teenage eyewitnesses whose court testimony helped convict Sparks recanted many of her statements in interviews with CIU staff.

The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which examined the case in 2013, initially secured a new sentence of 20 years for Sparks after he became eligible for resentencing under a Supreme Court ruling on juvenile lifers. The group also pushed for the CIU investigation. The Inquirer had also expressed doubts about Sparks’ guilt an investigation report from 2018which also included audio recordings of his 911 call.

According to his lawyersSparks reunited with his mother, grandmother, siblings and 16-year-old daughter, who was born shortly after his arrest, on Monday after his release.

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