It has taken 11 years from behind bars, but Dontia Patterson will get a fair chance to prove his innocence of murdering his friend, Antwine Jackson, in broad daylight on January 11, 2007. Mr. Jackson was tragically killed outside Gregorio Mercado’s grocery in Lawncrest. Minutes later, 17-year-old Dontia Patterson came from his home down the street, drawn by hearing of the death of his friend. An epileptic, Patterson did not have the physical ability to commit the murder as theorized by the Commonwealth. His presence at the scene would lead to his wrongful conviction. Leads to other potential perpetrators went unfollowed, leaving only evidence so weak it took two jury trials to finally convict Mr. Patterson. Years later, Mr. Patterson’s pro bono attorneys uncovered evidence readily available which, had it been presented, no doubt would have ended his living nightmare at his first trial.
“Mr. Patterson could not have committed this murder; the evidence that it was not him was there all along, yet he remained imprisoned for over 11 years for a crime he did not commit. Had his trial counsel investigated properly and talked with the witnesses who are still willing to say they know Dontia is innocent, he would have been freed a decade ago. That he spent even a single day in prison – much less 11 years – is a travesty,” says attorney Hayes Hunt, Mr. Patterson’s pro bono counsel, and a partner with Cozen O’Connor.
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project also represents Mr. Patterson. “Because of the work of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Post-Conviction Relief unit, Mr. Patterson did not even have to go to a hearing; they saw the injustice done and agreed to vacate his conviction,” said Pennsylvania Innocence Project Legal Director Nilam Sanghvi. “We are hopeful the District Attorney will agree with us that Mr. Patterson should never have been charged and look forward to the day he is returned to his family.”