A prisoner was 'likely innocent' for 25 years, and prosecutors knew the whole time

Ryan W. Miller

A Philadelphia man more than 25 years into a life sentence has been freed after prosecutors admitted they had evidence at the time that showed the man was "likely innocent" for a murder.

Chester Hollman III, 48, was freed Monday from a state prison in Luzerne County. A formal dismissal of the charges against him is expected later this month. 

“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet still," Hollman told KYW-TV in Philadelphia. "Just this morning, I learned that this was happening. I’m still a little in shock, disbelief."

Defense attorney Alan Tauber called it "a glorious day."

"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," Tauber said.

In 1993, Holman was convicted of killing of University of Pennsylvania student Tae-Jung Ho near Rittenhouse Square in 1991, but the district attorney's office said authorities had evidence that pointed to other suspects, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. 

According to the newspaper, Hollman was arrested after a cabdriver heard gunshots in the area and called police with information on a white SUV and partial license plate.

Nearby, Hollman was in a car matching the description along with a neighbor. That neighbor became a key witness in Hollman's trial when she testified that she had been riding with the man and two others when she saw two of them get out of the car and heard a gunshot, the Inquirer reported.

However, in 2012, the neighbor testified that her original statements were coerced. A since-retired police detective who took the neighbor's testimony has denied it was coerced. 

Police also received a tip less than a day after the shooting that pointed to another viable suspect. Assistant District Attorney Patricia Cummings accused former police and prosecutors of suppressing evidence.

"It was pretty clear to us that unfortunately the police department and the district attorney’s office actually had evidence in their possession back at the time of trial," Cummings, who oversees Philadelphia's Conviction Integrity Unit, told reporters.

"Had they disclosed that to the defense, like they’re constitutionally and ethically required to do, Mr. Hollman might not have ever stood trial, quite frankly." 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Philadelphia man serving life freed after DA says evidence suppressed