Death row inmate Jermaine Wright was released on Friday after spending more than two decades in prison. In 1992, Wright was convicted in the 1991 murder of Phillip Seifert. Although he confessed during interrogation, Superior Court Judge John A. Parkins, Jr. ruled that Wright’s confession was inadmissible. Parkins said Wright was impaired during interrogation, as he was high on heroin.
On January 14, 1991, 66-year-old liquor store clerk Phillip Seifert was shot and killed during a robbery. Delaware authorities later identified Jermaine Wright as their primary suspect.
As reported by Delaware Online, Wright was arrested on suspicion of murder. Following a 13-hour interrogation, the suspect confessed to killing the liquor store clerk.
The following year, the defendant was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. As there was no physical evidence, and no eyewitnesses, the conviction was based solely on Jermaine Wright’s confession.
Wright’s conviction and sentence were overturned by Superior Court Judge John A. Parkins, Jr. in January, 2012. In his ruling, Parkins explained that Wright was high on heroin during his original confession and was therefore impaired.
Judge Parkins further accused prosecutors of withholding evidence, which may have assisted in Wright’s defense. He also determined that the defendant “was not properly read his rights.”
Although the conviction and death sentence were overturned by Parkins, they were later reinstated by the Delaware Supreme Court in a vote of 4-1. In their ruling, the Supreme Court determined that the confession was in fact valid and “the other concerns… would not have changed the outcome of the trial.”
In response, Jermaine Wright’s attorneys filed a clarification appeal. After reexamining the entire case, the Delaware Supreme Court overturned the defendant’s conviction.
On Friday, Superior Court Judge John A. Parkins, Jr. affirmed the Supreme Court’s decision. Prosecutors subsequently dismissed all charges against Jermaine Wright. The death row inmate was then released after spending more than 20 years on death row.
Wright’s attorney, Herbert Mondros, said he is pleased with the court’s decision.
“The police extracted Mr. Wright’s confession after 13 hours of interrogation in a windowless 13 x 10 room while handcuffed to a table… The result was a so-called confession that was factually inconsistent… and found wholly unreliable by the court.”
The victim’s son, Royce Seifert, said he is disappointed that the conviction was overturned. In his opinion, Wright is directly responsible for his father’s death.
Although Jermaine Wright is now a free man, Deputy Attorney General Steve Wood has announced plans to appeal the high court’s decision. As reported by USA Today, the original charges could be reinstated if the appeal is successful.
[Image via Delaware Online]