Court Allows Wrongful Conviction Claims To Proceed

A federal court has issued an important decision allowing KRMFL’s client, Shaurn Thomas, to present his wrongful conviction claims to a federal jury.  

Thomas was convicted for the 1990 murder of Domingo Martinez.  But he was innocent. Thomas was incarcerated for twenty-four years until his exoneration. 

In 2017, he sued the City of Philadelphia and two detectives, Martin Devlin and Paul Worrell, claiming that they fabricated evidence against him. Detectives in the case routinely mistreated civilian witnesses in order to obtain information pointing to Thomas’s involvement in the murder.  One such witness described being handcuffed to a metal chair, being hit by a phone book, and having his testicles squeezed until he finally gave a fake story to end the abuse. In another instance, an interrogated individual was prevented from seeing his baby’s delivery until he told detectives what they wanted to hear. In addition to this misconduct, detectives failed to conduct any investigation in Mr. Thomas’s alibi: that he had been arrested for an unrelated minor offense and had not yet been released at the time of the murder.

In the opinion denying the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter ruled that Mr. Thomas “presented evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that the detectives included false assertions and made material omissions in the affidavit of probable cause.” 

Importantly, the Court’s ruling also allows Mr. Thomas to pursue claims against the City of Philadelphia.  It did so based on an established pattern of Philadelphia Police Department officers engaging in misconduct in the investigation of homicide cases.  Given this pattern, the Court ruled, a jury could find that the City has been “deliberately indifferent” to misconduct in the course of homicide investigations.

Mr. Thomas is represented by Paul Messing and KRMFL’s co-counsel at Dechert LLP.

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