Voices: Justice for Walter Ogrod may be finally at hand

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One year ago, we wrote about the case of Walter Ogrod, a man whom many believe was wrongfully convicted of killing four-year-old Barbara Jean Horn in Philadelphia in 1988. He was sent to death row in 1996, in spite of the fact it took four years for police to arrest him, there was no physical evidence or eyewitness identification, and that Ogrod, who is on the autism spectrum disorder, signed a 16-page confession after being interrogated for 14 hours without an attorney present.

Our story centered on a book, The Trials of Walter Ogrod, by Thomas Lowenstein, who told us he was convinced of Ogrod’s innocence and that he would be exonerated some day. “We just need to bring this case into the sunlight,” he said at the time.

Well, the sun has finally come out. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News reports that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, under the recently-elected Philadelphia district attorney, Larry Krasner, “is now formally reviewing Ogrod’s conviction, which his current lawyers have been appealing for more than a decade.”

And, the paper reports, prosecutors will no longer fight a defense request “to have key evidence in the case — including fingernail scrapings from the victim — undergo state-of-the-art DNA testing, which they believe could prove their client’s innocence.”

In addition, on CNN’s Headline News Network, Ogrod’s case was featured in its “Death Row Stories” documentary series last weekend, and cast strong doubt on the credibility of the jailhouse snitch testimony prosecutors used to convict Ogrod.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” is a well-worn legal maxim, and justice has been denied Walter Ogrod for 22 years. But for the majority of those years, Lowenstein remained at the forefront of the efforts to obtain justice for Ogrod. He spent years writing “The Trials of Walter Ogrod,” and delivered a 348-page compelling look at how flawed this case is, with jailhouse snitches, false confessions, and a man who was tried twice, in Philadelphia, “a place so poisoned by police misconduct that it long ago lost its sense of shame,” as Rolling Stone once wrote. And in all that time, Lowenstein never lost faith in Ogrod’s innocence.

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