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Judge frees Philly man serving life prison term after prosecutors call him ‘likely innocent’ in 1991

July 15, 2019, Michaelle Bond - The Inquirer

Twenty-eight years after police arrested Chester Hollman III for murder, 25 years after a judge sentenced him to life in prison, and seven years after a key trial witness admitted she had falsely implicated him because of pressure from investigators, a judge on Monday accepted prosecutors’ acknowledgment that Hollman was “likely innocent” and ordered him freed from prison.

The ruling by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright came after prosecutors and Hollman’s defense lawyer jointly petitioned the judge to throw out his conviction in a 1991 killing near Rittenhouse Square. In court filings, the District Attorney’s Office conceded that prosecutors and police from that time had hidden evidence that pointed to more viable suspects.

Hollman was a 20-year-old armored-car driver with no criminal record when he was arrested. He’s now 48. He wasn’t in court Monday to hear the news, or connected through video conferencing. But under Bright’s order, he could be released from a state prison in Luzerne County as early as Monday evening, with all charges expected to be formally dismissed later this month.

“This is a glorious day," Alan Tauber, Hollman’s longtime lawyer, said outside the courthouse, after calling Hollman’s sister Deanna to tell her of the victory. She broke into tears of joy.

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