As described by retired Philadelphia Police Homicide Detective Manuel Santiago, Anthony Wright's 1991 confession to raping and murdering 77-year-old Louise Talley was an unexpected coup.
Brought in for questioning at 1:45 p.m. Oct. 20 - the day after Talley was fatally stabbed in her house in the 3900 block of Nice Street in Nicetown - Wright was cordial and volunteered to be questioned without a lawyer.
Santiago said he then told Wright he had witnesses and "this is what they say you did."
Within two hours, Santiago testified Tuesday, Wright, then 20, had given an eight-page statement confessing to plotting to rob Talley to buy drugs, sexually assaulting her and stabbing her to death, and recruiting three neighborhood drug users to help loot her house of two televisions, a radio, and loose change.
Wright's statement - and whether it was coerced - was challenged Tuesday by Wright's attorney Samuel W. Silver and was defended just as strongly by Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega.
"It was completely voluntary," Santiago told Vega as he was questioned before a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury hearing Wright's retrial.
Silver suggested that Santiago had concocted the confession. He said it made no sense that Wright would agree "without resistance" to accompany Santiago to Police Headquarters and, according to Santiago, "talk to you and give you any help I could," then promptly confess in detail.
Santiago would not budge: "I am absolutely certain that your client murdered and raped Mrs. Talley."
Silver also challenged Santiago's testimony that he did not tape-record Wright's statement because he never taped any suspect or witness interviews. He confronted Santiago with his testimony in an unrelated 1989 trial in which the detective testified that he did tape-record a witness.
"I'm glad you refreshed my memory, because I had no recollection of doing that," Santiago replied.
Vega then went back to the 1989 trial transcript and Santiago said that he recalled that the prosecutor in that case told him to tape-record that one witness.
Twenty-three years after Wright was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, his alleged confession remains the key prosecution evidence against him in a case that has been undermined by recent DNA testing.
Prosecutors originally argued that Wright, now 44, was the lone rapist and killer in the Talley case.
Three years ago, Wright's lawyers, working with the Innocence Project of New York, persuaded a judge to let them use sophisticated DNA testing to reanalyze the physical evidence from 1991.
A first round of testing proved that Wright was not the source of semen found inside Talley's body. Instead, the DNA in semen samples matched Ronnie Byrd, an ex-Philadelphia crack dealer who died in a South Carolina prison in 2013 at age 62.
In 2014, the District Attorney's Office agreed to a new trial.
A second round of tests was then performed on blood-spattered clothing - a black-and-red Chicago Bulls sweatshirt, blue jeans with an unusual suede patch running down the inside of each leg, and black FILA sneakers - that detectives said they found in Wright's bedroom, where he told them it would be.
Tests on the clothing showed only Talley's DNA - not Wright's.
Wright's attorneys now allege that detectives lied when they said they found the clothing at Wright's mother's house in the 1900 block of Brunner Street in Nicetown. Wright's mother testified at his 1993 trial that detectives removed no clothing from her house.
Vega and co-prosecutor Bridget Kirn rested their case Tuesday after five days of testimony. When the jury of seven women and five men returns Wednesday, the defense will begin its case, focusing heavily on the DNA testing that won Wright a new trial.