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Federal judge vacates 1984 Philadelphia murder conviction

The judge said the rights of Willie Stokes were violated, 38 years after he was sentenced.

PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge has vacated a 1984 murder conviction of a man who had been serving a life sentence in a Philadelphia slaying. 

The judge, supported by Philadelphia’s prosecutor, said last month that the rights of Willie Stokes were violated because he wasn’t told that a key witness against him had been prosecuted for perjury after his conviction. The federal court ordered Stokes retried within 120 days or released.

The witness implicated Stokes in a preliminary hearing but recanted that testimony at trial. After Stokes was convicted, the witness was prosecuted for perjury — something not told to Stokes, who could have used it in his appeals.

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