He Spent 23 Years On Death Row For A Murder He Didn’t Commit. His Conviction Was Just Overturned.

Walter Ogrod was one of those death row inmates who wasn’t just convicted of murder but convicted of the murder of a 4-year-old girl.
On Friday, however, Ogrod walked out of prison an innocent man, his conviction overturned. Judge Shelley Robins New vacated Ogrod’s conviction and his sentence after hearing “clear and convincing” evidence that the Pennsylvania man did not kill the little girl back in 1988.
A hearing was held over Zoom to determine Ogrod’s fate, Newsweek reported. A new trial had been ordered for his case, but the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to decline retrying him. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner told media outlets he expects the case to be dismissed within weeks. Osgrod was released Friday on bail.
His family was waiting for him outside the prison, NBC 10 Philadelphia reported. Ogrod told the outlet he “was glad to get out.”
James Rollins, one of Ogrod’s attorneys, told Newsweek that Ogrod’s case is not that unique.
“This innocent man and his family lost almost thirty years that they should have spent together. Instead, that irreplaceable time together is gone, lost to a system that keeps making the same mistakes,” Rollins said in a statement.
Rollins went on to say:
This is a case where no forensic evidence tied Mr. Ogrod to the crime, where eyewitness descriptions didn’t match Mr. Ogrod, and where police coerced a false confession from Mr. Ogrod which got many of the facts incorrect about the crime he allegedly committed.
The state presented false testimony, unconstitutionally withheld exculpatory evidence, and relied on unreliable jailhouse informant testimony to convict an innocent man of a brutal murder.
NBC 10 reported that 4-year-old Barbara Jean Horn was found dead in a cardboard box in 1988 after she went missing. Ogrod, Horn’s neighbor, was charged with her murder four years after she was found dead. Ogrod confessed, but claimed he was coerced, a claim with which followers of the case agree. Ogrod later recanted his confession. Five witnesses also said the man they saw with the cardboard box didn’t look like Ogrod.
Ogrod was nearly found not guilty during his first trial, but one juror announced he disagreed with the finding before the foreman could announce the verdict. A mistrial was declared. Ogrod was found guilty during a second trial based on testimony from an unreliable jailhouse informant.
The Philadelphia DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit re-investigated the case and discovered errors.
“Prosecutors claimed Ogrod beat Horn with a weight bar. But her injuries showed she died of asphyxiation, not from blows to her head. And a sample of male DNA found at the crime scene did not match Ogrod’s, his attorneys said in January,” NBC 10 reported.
Last month, Horn’s mother, Sharon Fahy, filed a motion urging Ogrod to be released.
“My daughter is never coming home but I wanted justice for her, not simply a closed case with an innocent person in jail. Two families have already been destroyed,” she wrote in the brief.
Ogrod, 55, contracted the coronavirus while in prison, but appears to have recovered.
It is still unknown who actually killed Horn.
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