Philadelphia man freed after 23 years on death row for murder he didn’t commit
Walter Ogrod is now a free man. (Pennsylvania Department of Corrections)
A Philadelphia man who spent 28 years in prison and 23 on death row for a crime he didn’t commit is now free.
Walter Ogrod, 55, walked out of prison Friday, nearly three decades after he was unjustly convicted of murdering a 4-year-old girl.
Ogrod is technically just free on bail after a judge reduced the charges against him, but prosecutors have no plans to pursue the case, the Associated Press reported.
In July 1988, 4-year-old Barbara Jean Horn was found dead, naked in a television box on the curb outside her Philadelphia home. Ogrod, who lived across the street from Barbara Jean at the time, was interviewed but not considered a suspect in the initial investigation.
In 1992, two new detectives took the case and eventually pinned it on Ogrod, saying that he confessed to killing Barbara Jean. Ogrod has argued for 28 years that his confession was coerced.
At his first trial, the jury was ready to declare Ogrod not guilty, but a single juror expressed disagreement with the verdict just as the foreman was about to deliver it, according to the AP. At a second trial in 1996, Ogrod was found guilty and sentenced to death.
There was never any physical evidence tying Ogrod to the murder, and now both his attorneys and state prosecutors agree that he didn’t do it, according to the AP. Philadelphia Judge Shelley Robins-New vacated Ogrod’s conviction Friday.
Robins-New said that she couldn’t toss the case entirely, the AP reported, but prosecutors have already motioned to decline to retry Ogrod on third-degree murder charges.
Though he spent 23 years on death row, Ogrod likely would not have been executed even if his case had never been reexamined. Pennsylvania has not executed anyone since 1999, and the state has killed only three people since the 1970s.
“He was very pleased and relieved to be out of prison,” Ogrod’s lawyer James Rollins told the AP. “He is very tired.”