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A Bright Line Rule Barring Convictions Based Solely on Recanted Testimony?

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Amaris Elliott-Engel reported today in the Legal Intelligencer that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is “considering whether it should declare a bright-line rule against allowing a defendant’s criminal conviction to rest solely on the out-of-court statements of witnesses who repudiate statements at trial.” This issue arose in the case of Dwayne Brown, a man convicted of murder based on the out-of-court statements of three eyewitnesses who recanted their statements at trial. No forensic evidence tied Brown to the crimes. Further, Brown’s attorneys were not permitted to introduce a written and videotaped confession by Brown’s co-defendant, Jasaan Walker, who admitted to committing the murders with his brothers, and not with Brown. Prosecutors made a deal with Walker in which he promised not to testify at Brown’s trial.

Even putting aside the DA’s silencing of Walker, it is dissapointing that prosecutors, who take an oath to seek justice, would consider recanted testimony alone sufficient evidence to continue a prosecution, thus requiring the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to consider the bright-line rule discussed above.

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