'Free at last': Man released after being wrongfully convicted, imprisoned for nearly 30 years

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
Man released after being wrongfully convicted, imprisoned for 30 years
Wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for 30 years, Eric Riddick is finally free.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It was perhaps the most fanfare anyone has ever received walking across a street to Philadelphia's City Hall.

A crowd of people cheered and clapped to see Eric Riddick take those steps across the street. They were among the first steps he's taken as a free man in nearly 30 years.

"Free at last! Free at last," shouted Christine Riddick while holding on tightly to her 51-year-old son. "Thank God almighty! My son is free at last!"

Friday morning, Riddick and his lawyers attended a hearing that overturned his conviction for a 1991 murder in Southwest Philadelphia.

William Catlett, a friend of Riddick's died in the shooting.

Riddick's legal team argued that he was two blocks away from the shooting when it happened.

They worked with the Conviction Integrity Unit of the District Attorney's Office under District Attorney Larry Krasner to get to Friday's hearing.

"He was innocent of the crime he was accused of," said Riddick's attorney Emeka Igwe.

Riddick said, "They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, this is testimony that it takes a village to raise justice."

Riddick's mother spent years trying to prove her son's innocence, eventually handing a booklet of proof to Philadelphia city councilmember David Oh.

Riddick's lawyers say the sole eyewitness in the case recanted his testimony in 1999 and 2019.

Still, it was a fight to get Riddick free.

Oh raised concerns about the length of time it takes to work through the criminal justice system for a wrongfully convicted person and about Pennsylvania's post-conviction hearing laws.

"I fought all these years to rectify my wrongful conviction, but my freedom at the time wasn't in season," said Eric Riddick. "Today, it's a testimonial that justice is definitely in season."

Riddick's case was largely ignored until hip-hop star Meek Mill pushed it into the national spotlight.

Mill served time in the same prison that Riddick served at the Chester State Correctional Institution.

Riddick's lawyer says he will reunite with Mill soon.

Meek Mill posted on social media expressing his thankfulness that Riddick was free. The post read in part: "I gave him my word when I left I wouldn't leave the men behind without real help."

Students at Georgetown University also helped by re-examining the case. Many others also worked towards Riddick's release.

Oh has now filed a petition asking Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to issue Riddick a pardon.