Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tip of the Hat: Patriot News reporter, Dauphin County DA

A sad story of injustice had a happy ending in Harrisburg on Friday when David Gladden, a man with mental retardation who was wrongly convicted of the murder of a city woman 12 years ago, was released from prison after Dauphin County District Attorney Edward Marsico decided to drop all charges against him.

More often than not, the ACLU and our allies working for some semblance of justice find ourselves at odds with district attorneys, the PA District Attorneys Association, and the Attorney General. Time after time, we have seen DAs who refuse to admit when their office got it wrong and refuse to recognize that an innocent person was convicted. With that in mind, Marsico and his top assistant, ADA Fran Chardo, deserve a round of applause for recognizing the reality of Gladden's wrongful conviction and releasing him after 12 long years of incarceration.

In a story with several heroes, the biggest one is Patriot News reporter Pete Shellem. It was Pete's dogged work that got this ball rolling. Without his series of articles in December 2005, Gladden would just be another case shuffling through the criminal justice system. This is the fourth time that Pete's work has directly led to the release of an innocent person.

And his article in today's paper reminds us that for the exonerated the story continues as they try to adjust to life on the outside.
The homecomings are always surreal...

They were all joyful moments, but in each case I was struck by overwhelming sadness watching these bewildered souls being thrust back into a life from which they were torn when the justice system ran them over.

In a day of media consolidation, declining newspaper circulation, and massive layoffs at some of the state's leading papers, we need reporters like Pete Shellem more than ever.

Andy in Harrisburg

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