Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Philly DA said death-row inmate is ‘likely innocent.’ Now his case is delayed by the coronavirus.

Despite the extensive evidence indicating Ogrod has been wrongly detained, his next scheduled court date, which had been scheduled for March 27, has been postponed at least until June.

Police mug shot of Walter Ogrod taken April 6, 1992.
Police mug shot of Walter Ogrod taken April 6, 1992.Read morePhiladelphia Police

Walter Ogrod, 55, has spent 23 years on death row for the 1988 murder of 4-year-old Barbara Jean Horn — but in February, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office filed briefs arguing that Ogrod is “likely innocent” and seeking his release from state prison. The filing documented falsified testimony and alleged misconduct by prosecutors and detectives that led to Ogrod’s conviction.

Ogrod’s next scheduled court date on this matter, March 27, has been postponed at least until June. Now, both his defense team and the district attorney have filed emergency motions for Ogrod’s release and transportation to a hospital — citing symptoms of possible coronavirus, including a 106-degree fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

“Ogrod has exhibited symptoms consistent with COVID-19, has not been tested for COVID-19, is vulnerable to it because of his age and medical conditions, and has not been given appropriate medical treatment,” the emergency motion reads.

Philadelphia’s courts were closed on Monday through April 1, to retard the spread of the coronavirus. However, the First Judicial District issued an order permitting emergency proceedings for medical reasons.

Ogrod’s brother, Greg, said he spoke with Walter and it sounded like his health was improving. However, without a test, he’s still anxious.

“I’m concerned about my brother’s health. God forbid he dies in there after all this time," Ogrod said. "Let his family come get him, and we can quarantine him in our house.”

The Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding whether Ogrod or others are under quarantine or have been tested for the coronavirus. Ogrod is housed at State Correctional Institution Phoenix in Montgomery County, which has Pennsylvania’s highest concentration of cases to date.

James Rollins, one of Ogrod’s lawyers, said there’s no time to wait.

“The prison is unable to provide the treatment that he needs,” he said in a statement. “Every day a decision and/or hearing is delayed is another day that Mr. Ogrod remains on death row for a crime he did not commit and at grave risk to his life. We are asking for an immediate ruling on already filed papers or a telephone hearing to get Mr. Ogrod released to treatment and safety.”