Anthony Wright, who served 25 years in prison for rape and murder and was freed last month after a retrial based on new DNA evidence, has sued the City of Philadelphia and 11 police officers who investigated the case, alleging that they fabricated evidence.
Wright, now 44, was sentenced to life without parole for the 1991 slaying of 77-year-old Louise Talley at her Nicetown home.
On Aug. 23, after less than an hour of deliberation, a Common Pleas Court jury acquitted Wright, who walked out prison that day.
"This miscarriage of justice was the direct result of egregious misconduct by the defendant officers of the Philadelphia Police Department," according to the 38-page complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.
City spokesman Mike Dunn said Wednesday night that officials were reviewing the lawsuit and had no further comment. A police spokeswoman said the department does not comment on active litigation.
At Wright's trial, prosecutors argued that the defendant, then 20, entered Talley's home, raped and stabbed the widow, then stole some of her possessions, including two TV sets.
DNA testing in 2013 matched sperm found in Talley's body to Ronnie Byrd, a career criminal and crack addict who squatted in an abandoned house near Talley's home. Just days after the DNA match was made, Byrd died in a South Carolina prison.
During the investigation, the lawsuit alleges, homicide detectives found what they believed to be men's clothing in her house. They later claimed they found the clothes - a Chicago Bulls shirt, Fila sneakers, and jeans - during a search of Wright's bedroom at his mother's house.
Subsequent testing determined that DNA from inside the clothing came from Talley's skin and sweat, confirming that she wore the clothes. The testing excluded Wright as having worn the clothes.
The lawsuit alleges that detectives wrote a false confession, and forced Wright to sign it without reading it. The suit seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.
Other evidence in the case also was fabricated, the complaint says.
"Various cases demonstrate that this misconduct was pervasive within the Philadelphia Police Department at the time of Mr. Wright's interrogation," according to the complaint, which details other cases involving the defendant officers.