A jury found a man not guilty in his retrial in the rape and murder of a 77-year-old woman a quarter-century ago, after DNA evidence pointed to another man.
Anthony Wright was sentenced to life without parole in the October 1991 slaying of his neighbor Louise Talley, whose nude body was found face-down on a bedroom floor in her North Philadelphia home. Talley had been raped and then stabbed 10 times in the neck, chest and back with a kitchen knife.
Tuesday, jurors spent less than two hours deliberating Tuesday before returning with the not guilty verdict.
The district attorney's office agreed to a new trial in 2014 at the request of Wright's defense team, led by the Innocence Project, after DNA tests showed that sperm found inside Talley's body belonged to a former Philadelphia-area crack addict who died in a South Carolina prison.
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The testing also showed that only Talley's genetic material was inside clothing that homicide detectives alleged Wright told them he wore and that was found inside his bedroom in his mother's house.
Defense lawyer Samuel Silver, in his closing argument on Monday, called on the jury to acquit Wright, asking of the DNA testing: "What better evidence could there be?"
Assistant District Attorney Bridget Kirn argued that the DNA evidence proved only that Wright didn't commit the crime alone, not that he is innocent, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
On his first full day of freedom in a quarter century, 44-year-old Tony Wright hugged the jurors who made it happen. In the Center City law office were attorneys had worked his case he stepped to a bank of microphones and exhaled.
"It's been an unbelievable 24 hours for me," he told reporters. "I'm just living in the moment. I'm on Cloud 9!"
"I feel wonderful," said jury foreperson Grace Greco. "It was humbling. And it was a privilege to read those words, 'Not guilty.'"
With his long-suffering parents watching, Wright was asked if he was angry at the legal system that stole so much of his life.
"I worship a merciful God," he said. "If he forgives people, who am I to hold a grudge?"
Wright held his granddaughter and hugged has now grown son. Bruce Gordon found his father in the crowd. David Parker, who now lives in Florida, wants Tony to pay him a visit.
"I asked him if it was okay if I held his hand while we walked down the beach," said Parker. "He said 'Dad, you can do whatever you want. I love you.'"