CJ Rice Exonerated After Jake Tapper Atlantic Story

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By journalsofus.com

Prosecutors will not seek a new trial against CJ Rice, a South Philadelphia man convicted of four counts of attempted murder in 2013, they told a judge during a several-minute hearing Monday.

There was no disagreement between the District Attorney’s Office and Rice’s defense team when prosecutors said at the Court of Common Pleas hearing that they would not continue to prosecute Rice, essentially exonerating him.

The decision brings an end to Rice’s case, which resulted in a 30- to 60-year prison sentence, 12 years after his incarceration, most recently at Chester State Correctional Institution in Delaware County. A federal court in November ordered that Rice, claiming his conviction was illegal, be released or retried within 180 days.

The case attracted national attention when CNN anchor Jake Tapper, a Philadelphia native, published an article in The Atlantic calling Rice’s initial defense “dangerously incompetent.”

“It’s great to see justice finally being served in this case,” Tapper told The Inquirer on Monday. “I know the District Attorney gets criticized for all kinds of things, but having an office that is willing to listen to reason and evidence, even if it means overturning a conviction, is no small feat.”

Tapper learned about the case from his father, Philadelphia doctor Theodore Tapper, who had treated Rice for gunshot wounds in the days before the Sept. 25, 2011, shooting in South Philadelphia that left four people injured and said that Rice would have been physically incapable. to commit the crime due to his injuries.

” READ MORE: Jake Tapper’s Atlantic cover story discusses South Philadelphia man’s conviction for attempted murder

Both Tappers attended Monday’s hearing, along with members of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and the Exoneration Project, legal groups that work to exonerate those wrongfully convicted of crimes.

“We’re very happy,” said Karl Schwartz, a Philadelphia attorney whose firm took on Rice’s case as it moved through the appeals process. “We are incredibly relieved for CJ…we are also appalled that an innocent man had to spend so much time in prison. “When you have to fix it at the end, that’s not how the process is supposed to work.”

District Attorney Larry Krasner said at a news conference that Rice’s conviction came at a time when previous administrations had a “culture that focused exclusively on winning, and only vaguely on justice,” and highlighted the commitment of his office to review the cases of people serving prison sentences. for crimes they did not commit.

Krasner said the case against Rice “had no integrity,” but stopped short of saying with complete confidence that Rice was innocent.

Schwartz and other members of the defense team broke the news to Rice by phone immediately after the hearing. Rice, whose family did not attend the hearing, has been free on bail since December, according to his team.

“We are very happy for CJ,” said Nilam Sanghvi, legal director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. “It’s just a reminder of what he brought us here, which is eyewitness misidentification, poor legal assistance and fiscal overreach. So I hope we start to learn from some of these lessons.”

Much of the doubt surrounding Rice’s 2013 conviction during a jury trial rests on the conduct of his court-appointed attorney, public defender Sandjai Weaver.

Tapper’s Atlantic article suggested that Weaver, who died in 2019, had made a series of errors by failing to produce Rice’s complete hospital records, collect alibi statements and obtain location data from Rice’s cell phone.

The lawyer was likely overworked and underpaid, parties involved in the case agree.

Because of those conditions, Tapper said, “there is little incentive for anyone to jump in and get their hands dirty and try to figure out whether the client is not guilty and, if so, the best way to prove it in a court of law.” law.”

“There are those who say that low pay is not a coincidence,” Tapper said. “It’s a feature, not a bug, that they don’t want a system where people who can’t afford good lawyers can have a proper lawyer.”

Krasner, who has served as a court-appointed defense attorney in homicide cases, told reporters that the work was a “constant fight for adequate funding.”

Rice approached Tapper’s father in 2016 to request medical records detailing injuries to his pelvis in another shooting on Sept. 3, 2011, evidence that was never presented at his trial. That conversation led to the doctor helping Rice get a legal team and journalist Tapper’s interest in the story. according to Jake Tapper’s CNN article published Monday.

Krasner’s office began reviewing Rice’s case after a federal judge approved her habeas corpus petition last year. Deputy District Attorney Bill Fritze presented to reporters several factors in his findings that cast doubt on Rice’s conviction.

For one thing, eyewitness testimony boiled down to a single witness who had misidentified Rice’s hairstyle to police, according to Fritze. Meanwhile, a 911 phone call made after the shooting, and not presented during Rice’s defense, documented another individual’s description of the suspect that conflicted with eyewitness testimony, according to Fritze.

There was no physical evidence linking Rice to the shooting. Tapper, the doctor, testified that given Rice’s injuries in a shooting five days earlier, he probably would not have been able to “walk upright, much less run at any speed.”

” READ MORE: A South Philadelphia man convicted of attempted murder could soon be freed after Jake Tapper’s cover story in The Atlantic

Theodore Tapper, leaving the Kidd Stout Criminal Justice Center, told reporters that he had just spoken with CJ and “he had a big smile on his face on the phone.”

“Finally, the system declared him innocent,” said Dr. Tapper. “It should never have happened. He was no different from the five or six of us who were here now. He was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, he had the wrong skin color and he grew up the way he grew up – that’s why they locked him up for 12 years.”

Tapper, the journalist, will air an exclusive interview with Rice on CNN’s “The Whole Story.” Sunday afternoon.

“Once you see how the system can be so unfair, you can’t unsee it,” Tapper said.

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