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June 06, 2018

Philadelphia reaches $9.85 million settlement with man who spent 25 years in prison for crimes he did not commit

In 1991 Anthony Wright was wrongfully arrested and convicted of rape and murder

Courts Settlements
Richard Ross Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross.

The City of Philadelphia agreed Wednesday to a $9.85 million settlement in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by a man who spent 25 years in prison after he was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder.

In 1991, Anthony Wright was arrested and convicted in the rape and murder of a 77-year-old woman in North Philadelphia. Wright maintained his innocence and in 2013 a rape kit revealed the DNA profile of another man, Ronnie Byrd, who has since died. 

A court tried Wright again in August 2016 and in less than an hour a jury exonerated and released him from prison. 

The settlement does not include an admission of liability and will be paid over time, according to a news release from the city. Wright will receive his first payment – $4 million – before the end of the month, according to the settlement.

“I am pleased that a settlement was reached which will allow both the City and Mr. Wright to move forward and believe this is a fair agreement for both parties," Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement on Wednesday. "Mr. Wright has shown great dignity throughout this process, and I hope this resolution assists him and his family after what they have been through.  This is a tragic case and part of the reason why this administration remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring all people in our City receive fair treatment in our criminal justice system.”

In his federal civil rights complaint, Wright alleged detectives with the Philadelphia Police Department coerced and fabricated his 1991 confession and planted other evidence to convict him.

Police Commissioner Richard Ross said the department has seen "tremendous reforms" since Wright's incarceration.

“Today, the PPD is committed to protecting and upholding civil rights in our City, which is why we continually find ways to improve police strategies and techniques consistent with best practices," Ross said. "In addition to improving police practices, the PPD remains committed to conducting fair and thorough investigations of any crime."