Harold Wilson was acquitted, based on DNA evidence, of a triple homicide on November 15, 2005. He served more than 16 years on death row. Harold was prosecuted during his 1989 trial by former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Jack McMahon, best known for his role in a training video that advised new prosecutors on using race in selecting death penalty juries.
Harold was convicted of three counts of murder and sentenced to death after the murder and robbery of three people in South Philadelphia. “I was in shock for at least a month after the verdict,” Harold recalls. “The only thought that ran through my mind was, ‘How are they going to kill me three times?’ My life was gone and no one in the system cared about my innocence.”
A subsequent appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court resulted in a new hearing, based on McMahon’s racially discriminatory practices in jury selection in Harold’s case. When new DNA evidence demonstrated that blood from the crime scene was not Harold’s – indicating another assailant – the jury acquitted him of all charges. With his family in the courtroom, Harold wept as the jury read the verdict.
Since his release, Harold has been a passionate advocate against the death penalty and for criminal justice reform, often asking his audiences, “Is the death penalty worth killing one innocent person? Was it worth killing me?” He lives in Accomac, Virginia, and travels whenever he can to tell his story to audiences around the country.
Listen to Harold on "Democracy Now!"
Harold Wilson at 2015 Starvin' for Justice Fast & Vigil in Washington, DC