Willie Stokes Freed From Pennsylvania Prison After Federal Court Throws Out 1984 Murder Conviction

His first wish was to hug his mother and “get a corned beef hoagie.”

A Philadelphia man was freed from prison last week after he was sentenced to life in prison for the 1980 murder of Leslie Campbell that he insists he never committed. 

Willie Stokes was convicted of murder 37 years ago. Days after the hearing, the key witness in the case, Franklin Lee, admitted that his testimony was false and was charged with perjury. However, Stokes did not learn of the perjury plea until 2015, decades into a life sentence.

Lee was in jail facing murder and rape charges in 1984 when two homicide detectives offered him “sex, drugs, and a deal” in exchange for a false statement. So, Lee claimed that Stokes, a neighborhood friend, confessed to killing Campbell during a dice game.

Lee has apologized to Stokes, saying during a teleconference: “And I’d like to for the record, if I can, apologize to Mr. Stokes and the family for the problem I caused, sincerely.”

Stokes, 61, walked out of a state prison last week eager to hug his mother and eat a corned beef hoagie. 

“Today is a tremendous day. We’re all very thankful,” said his lawyer, Michael Diamondstein. “However, it’s also a sad day, because it reminds us of how lawless, unfair and unjust Philadelphia law enforcement was for so long.”

Image source: Associated Press