(Philadelphia, PA— December 17, 2020) Termaine Hicks walked out of Pennsylvania prison SCI Phoenix yesterday. He was exonerated after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office conceded that lead police officers lied under oath to cover up shooting Mr. Hicks—who was innocent of any crime—in the back three times.
In the early morning hours of November 27, 2001, Mr. Hicks heard the screams of a woman being raped in an alley in South Philadelphia and went to her aid. Police arriving at the scene completely misread the situation, erroneously assuming Mr. Hicks was the assailant, and shot him three times in the back. Realizing Mr. Hicks did not match the description of the attacker provided by a neighbor to 911 and that he was unarmed, the officers embarked on a cover-up, which included:
- Falsely claiming under oath that Mr. Hicks pulled a gun from his pocket, pointed it and lunged at officers before they shot him. Recent forensic examinations by the chief medical examiner for the City of Philadelphia and an independent medical examiner conclusively prove that the officer shot Mr. Hicks three times in the back — with one bullet entering near his spine, one in his buttock, and one in the back of his right arm.
- Falsely claiming under oath that they recovered a gun from Mr. Hicks’ right jacket pocket, which they asserted he placed back in his pocket after he was shot. In fact, the gun was registered as the off-duty weapon of another uniformed Philadelphia police officer. When recovered, the firearm was covered in blood belonging to the victim, who was bleeding profusely when the police arrived at the scene. Yet, forensic examiners found no blood inside of Mr. Hicks’ jacket pocket.
- Falsely claiming under oath that Mr. Hicks wore a gray hoodie like that a neighbor described the assailant as wearing. A neighbor who witnessed the woman being dragged by the assailant from the sidewalk to the alley and called police in real-time, reported that the attacker was wearing a gray hoodie covering his head. Mr. Hicks was transported to the hospital in all of his clothing which was preserved and included only a coat, a striped polo shirt, and white t-shirt — but no hoodie. The police froze the crime scene and catalogued whatever was there. Again, no gray hoodie was found.
- The day of the incident, detectives viewed surveillance footage which confirmed the assailant was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, which should have excluded Mr. Hicks as a suspect. However, police did not disclose the surveillance footage until after the trial.
Based on the officers’ testimony, Mr. Hicks was convicted of rape, aggravated assault, possessing an instrument of crime, and terroristic threats. He was sentenced to 12 and ½ to 25 years in prison. In 2015, Mr. Hicks came up for parole, but because he continued to assert his innocence he was denied, and not considered again. He served 19 years in prison.
“Mr. Hicks’ case is yet another example of the pervasive problem of police perjury in the criminal legal system. The cover up of shooting an innocent man required the false testimony of three officers and the acquiescence of a dozen more. Deep-seated police misconduct and institutional protections are too often the source of wrongful convictions and injustice in the system. For far too long the police have willfully lied with impunity; we need accountability,” said Vanessa Potkin, director of post-conviction litigation at the Innocence Project, who represented Mr. Hicks.
The Innocence Project, which is affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, took on Mr. Hicks’ case in 2011. Exculpatory post-conviction evidence was shared with the Philadelphia Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU), which, under District Attorney Larry Krasner and Patricia Cummings, moved to vacate Mr. Hicks’ conviction yesterday based on the officers’ false trial testimony.
In addition to the Innocence Project, Mr. Hicks is represented by local counsel Susan Lin of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin LLP.
This post was originally published on Radio Free.