Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Nonprofit Seeks To Exonerate Philly Man

September 3, 2008

Bradley Vasoli The Bulletin Philadelphia, PA

A New York-based nonprofit called the Innocence Project has taken up the case of a man convicted on Jan. 31, 1986 of first-degree murder, a conviction The Bulletin has been investigating since last winter.

William Moore, 50, was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of fellow food vendor Mark Weimer in Nov. 1984 when Mr. Moore was 27 and the deceased was 29. A postmortem report on Mr. Weimer identified three lacerations to his back and right side of his head caused by a heavy weapon, possibly a pipe. The medical examination concluded he died of skull fractures and brain hemorrhages resulting from those wounds.

The prosecution, headed by Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Barbara Christie, relied heavily on the sworn statements of Jeffrey Metz, a vending associate of the defendant and the deceased.

Mr. Metz told police that December he was neither involved in the murder nor privy to who committed it, but in the next few days he changed his story, saying Mr. Moore had killed Mr. Weimer in a Center City garage where vendors stored their hot-dog carts. Mr. Metz said Mr. Moore was upset with the victim about rent owed to the garage.

Mr. Metz said he helped Mr. Weimer clean blood from the alleged murder site and dispose of the body off of Elwyn Road in Middletown, Delaware County. Although Mr. Metz was untruthful with police on at least one occasion and admitted to aiding a man he identified as a murderer, he was never charged for any offense related to the case.

A friend of Mr. Moore's informed The Bulletin that the Innocence Project, a legal clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, has begun an effort to exonerate him. The project chiefly assists those challenging their convictions of murder, rape and other violent crimes through DNA testing.

In May, the nonprofit helped overturn the conviction of Walter Swift, a Detroit, Mich. man who served 26 years for rape. In February, Mississippians Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks had their murder convictions overturned on DNA evidence with help from the project.

Investigators discovered blood on some of Mr. Moore's possessions after Mr. Weimer's death, but advanced blood testing was not yet performed in criminal trials.

Ms. Christie is now chief counsel to the Pennsylvania State Police. Her conduct in other cases has since been a subject of controversy that culminated in a libel suit against the New York Times, which she settled in 1997. An article in the New York Times Magazine said District Attorney Lynn Abraham had demoted Ms. Christie for being a "magnet for criticism" over allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

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