60-year-old Curtis Crosland of Philadelphia experienced an unfortunately common atrocity after spending over 30 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
What makes matters even worse is that the evidence that got him exonerated was on file in the system for just as long as he was behind bars.
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CNN reports that Crosland was welcomed home by a huge family consisting of a fiancée, five children and a whopping 32 grandchildren. He spoke highly to the publication of seeing his family given the circumstances, stating, “It’s a great feeling to still be dad, to be wanted and desired, and open arms to receive you, that’s been the greatest part of being exonerated, that I come home to a loving family that wants and needs me.”
Here’s how CNN breaks down the details that had Crosland behind bars for a good portion of his adult life:
“Crosland was found guilty in 1991 of second-degree murder, robbery, and possessing an instrument of crime in the 1984 killing of a Philadelphia store owner.
Documents that could have helped acquit or exonerate him were in files at the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office from the beginning of the case, according to the lawsuit. The documents contained troubling information regarding the credibility of two key witnesses as well as police records which pointed to another suspect, the lawsuit states.
But that information was suppressed and there was no other evidence that connected Crosland to the crime, the CIU said in the news release.”
The 1984 killing of deli store owner Il Man “Tony” Heo went unsolved for years, with Crosland not even becoming a suspect until 1987. He tells CNN of the fateful day he was arrested, “I got a knock at my door (from police), I remember telling my wife and son ‘I’ll be back,’ because I didn’t do anything. I never came back. I never knew what I did, until they told me what I was accused of. It’s like a kidnap.”
One witness recanted her statement that she’d overheard Crosland and others “talking about the murder,” and the second witness admitted he lied by saying Crosland confessed the murder to him all because he himself was in jail and wanted to strike a deal for release.
Crosland says he begged the court every year for a chance to prove his innocence, and kept getting ignored consistently for over 30 years. Although the prison system, which he described as “hellish,” kept him from ever getting a good night’s sleep, he recalls that a faith in God kept him pushing forward. We’re just glad The Man Above finally came through for this man when he really needed it.
His June 2021 exoneration came by way of the Philadelphia Conviction Integrity Unit, who spent months on his case and eventually made Crosland the 22nd success story for their unit.
While a lawsuit is sure to come, we’re just happy that Curtis Crosland obtained his freedom and has years ahead of him to catch up with his enormously loving family.