A Philadelphia Commonwealth Court judge commuted a death sentence to life imprisonment for a man convicted of murdering a Philly cop in 1991.
Officer Daniel R. Boyle was 21 and had been a police officer for one year when he was shot after stopping a stolen car. He died from his wounds two days later, on Feb. 6, 1991.
Edward Bracey was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
However, Judge Theresa Sarmina vacated the death sentence on Monday, ruling that Bracey was mentally retarded and could not be put to death.
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Sarmina reportedly found Bracey to have an IQ of 74, according to the Inquirer.
Bracey's sentence is now life without parole. He has served 20 years on death row.
While District Attorney Seth Williams at a press conference this morning did not announce whether his office would appeal Sarmina's ruling, saying it is too early to make that decision, he criticized overruling a 22-year-old jury verdict.
“Officer Danny Boyle was a true hero,” Williams said in a statement. “This ruling is perplexing, and I can only imagine how devastating it is for the Boyle family.”
Williams’ first assistant district attorney, Ed McCann, said that in one of Bracey’s prior appeals in 1998, three expert witnesses testified that Bracey was not retarded.
“The defendant alleged that his trial attorney was ineffective for failing to present mental health mitigation evidence,” McCann said in a statement.
According to McCann, Bracey presented three expert witnesses: one who said Bracey’s IQ was 5 points above the level required for mental retardation; another said simply that Bracey was not retarded; and a third said Bracey was in the borderline range of retardation but could read at a 10th-grade level.
Bracey’s 1998 appeal was denied.
“The victim’s family [has] questions about a process that can lead to a result like this, and I for one have no answers,” McCann’s statement continued. “Because I have the same question about how a jury’s verdict, having been ratified by multiple layers of review, can be undone 22 years after it was rendered on a claim that is frankly inconsistent with the evidence this same defendant produced in 1998.”
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 will hold a press conference later this afternoon.
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