PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia man sentenced to life in prison a quarter-century ago was ordered freed from prison Monday after the Philadelphia prosecutor’s office told the court last month that he was “likely innocent” of the murder for which he was convicted.
Chester Hollman III, 48, was freed from state prison in Luzerne County by Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn Bright, with formal dismissal of all charges expected later this month, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Hollman was convicted of a 1991 killing near Philadelphia’s tony Rittenhouse Square. Prosecutors said authorities had failed to disclose evidence that pointed to other suspects. A key witness testified in 2012 that she gave false testimony after she alleged police pressured her to incriminate Hollman.
Defense attorney Alan Tauber called it “a glorious day,” adding outside the courthouse that “We have a flawed system and innocent people do go to jail. But we have a great system, because there is a means for correcting that.”
District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office said it informed the court June 24 “that Hollman was likely innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted, and asked the court to vacate his conviction and sentences.” Assistant District Attorney Patricia Cummings, supervisor of the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, accused former police and prosecutors of suppressing evidence that pointed to other suspects in the August 20, 1991, shooting of University of Pennsylvania student Tae-Jung Ho.
Bright ruled in 2012 that Hollman didn’t deserve a new trial despite testimony from a neighbor that she falsely testified that she had been riding in an SUV with Hollman and two other people, watched two of them get out and heard a gunshot. She alleged that police pressured her to incriminate the defendant. Retired detective David Baker, who took the neighbor’s original statement, denied during the 2012 hearing and in a 2017 interview that he had coerced her.