Walter Ogrod is officially exonerated.
Five days after a Philadelphia judge agreed to overturn Ogrod’s conviction in the 1988 killing of 4-year-old Barbara Jean Horn, another judge on Wednesday agreed to let prosecutors withdraw all outstanding charges against him — the final step in Ogrod’s two-decade fight to clear his name.
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One of Ogrod’s attorneys, Andrew Gallo, said Common Pleas Court Judge Leon W. Tucker allowed the District Attorney’s Office to formally drop the case without a hearing. Though Ogrod, 55, had been released from prison last week, he still technically faced a new trial in the case — something prosecutors made clear they had no intention of pursuing because they believe him to be innocent.
Tucker’s actions on Wednesday closed the door on the case.
Gallo said he was “happy that [the issue] was resolved quickly,” and that Ogrod was "very pleased to have this chapter of his life behind him.”
Ogrod has insisted since his 1992 arrest that he did not kill Barbara Jean, whose remains had been found four years earlier inside a cardboard box on the 1400 block of St. Vincent Street in Northeast Philadelphia.
His arrest was based in part on a confession he allegedly gave to two detectives, Martin Devlin and Paul Worrell. Earlier this year, the District Attorney’s Office said it believed Ogrod’s statement had been coerced. Prosecutors have accused the two detectives of coercing statements from defendants in other cases, and said they are reviewing an unspecified number of other convictions tied to them.
Prosecutors said Ogrod’s conviction was fundamentally flawed due to a host of other issues, including key evidence that was withheld by police and prosecutors at trial, and unreliable testimony from jailhouse informants.
During a hearing last week, Assistant District Attorney Carrie Wood apologized to Ogrod, Barbara Jean’s family members, and the city, saying the prosecutor’s office had previously concealed the truth about the case and "threatened to execute [Ogrod] based on falsehoods.”
Barbara Jean’s mother, Sharon Fahy, has said that she, too, now believes in Ogrod’s innocence, and that she supported his release from prison.
The exoneration marks the 13th murder conviction that District Attorney Larry Krasner’s Conviction Integrity Unit has helped overturn since he was sworn into office in 2018.
Krasner, in a statement, said Ogrod’s case was “not a feel-good story; what he suffered is beyond measure, and can never be undone.”