A prosecutor who tried the case against Anthony Wright—who after 25 years in prison had his conviction on rape and murder charges overturned—has been accused by Wright’s lawyers of knowingly allowing false testimony by detectives to be admitted at his trial.
Lawyers from the Innocence Project in New York have filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Board against former Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office prosecutor Bridget Kirn.
Kirn could not be reached for comment. According to the complaint, Kirn now works for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office on a contractual basis. However, the office did not have contact information for Kirn.
In 1991, Wright was accused and convicted of raping and stabbing to death 77-year-old Louise Talley in her North Philadelphia home. Former detective Manuel Santiago claimed to have a confession from Wright, but it was not recorded, according to the complaint. Another former detective, Frank Jastrzembski, produced blood-stained clothing said to have been worn by Wright on the night of the murder.
Wright told the jury he never confessed to Santiago, but signed a police-authored statement under duress, the complaint said. He also argued that the clothing police found was not his.
In 2011, DNA testing revealed that the clothing had not belonged to Wright, but to Talley. Additionally, tests revealed that the true perpetrator of the crime was Ronnie Byrd, a neighborhood crack-user who squatted on the property next to Talley’s, according to the complaint.
Wright was granted a retrial in light of the new evidence.
The complaint alleges that during Wright’s retrial, Kirn “failed to correct what she personally knew to be false testimony given by two of the lead detectives called as witnesses by the commonwealth.”
Santiago and Jastrzembski testified at the second trial, and “each witness maintained that he knew essentially nothing about the new DNA testing or what the results showed.”
“This was false, as Ms. Kirn well knew,” the complaint continued. “In fact—as has now been confirmed by these and other police witnesses, and by Ms. Kirn herself, in sworn deposition testimony—Ms. Kirn had personally briefed the former detectives in great detail about the new DNA results. Her briefings included information about the defense’s identification of Byrd as the semen donor on the victim’s intimate samples; the defense’s contention that Byrd was a crack user with close connections to the drug dealers who falsely implicated Mr. Wright; and the presence of ‘wearer DNA’ on the clothing and shoes that turned out to be from the victim, not Mr. Wright.”
Paul Cates of the Innocence Project declined to comment beyond what was laid out in the Disciplinary Board complaint. David Rudovsky, who represented Wright in a civil suit against the city of Philadelphia that produced a $9.8 million verdict, also declined to comment.