Man released from prison after judge throws out conviction in 1976 slaying after key witness recants

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Philadelphia man has been released from prison after his conviction in a poolroom slaying almost a half-century ago was overturned following recantation by a key witness of his testimony several years ago.

William Franklin, 77, released Tuesday, was convicted in the 1976 slaying of Joseph Hollis in a poolroom in the Brewerytown neighborhood based largely on the testimony of a jailhouse informant defense attorneys said was facing numerous criminal cases.

According to an affidavit and a video statement before his 2020 death, the informant said detectives not only threatened him with a life term but also offered him lenient treatment and the chance of liaisons with several girlfriends at police headquarters or hotel rooms, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported earlier.

Common Pleas Court Judge Tracy Brandeis-Roman last week threw out Franklin's first-degree murder conviction, saying her court "is not fond of the notion” that Philadelphia authorities have closed cases using coercion and such secret incentives, the newspaper reported.

Franklin walked out of Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility Tuesday after 44 years in prison to cheers from supporters and hugged his loved ones outside the prison. He told WCAU-TV that he felt “fine, lovely, glad to be here” but said there was "more work to be done because we got a lot of brothers and sisters behind them walls.”

The family had a celebratory lunch at the north Philadelphia home of Franklin's grandson, decorated with balloons and a “welcome home” sign. The Inquirer reported that his daughter, Gina Gibson said, that when he spotted the king-size bed, the 77-year-old jumped on it like a kid, saying, “You mean I get to roll over — twice?”

Franklin, denied bail by the judge, is now on house arrest pending a decision by the Philadelphia district attorney's office on appealing the ruling or retrying him. Prosecutors had opposed Franklin’s petition, arguing that the recantation by the witness wasn’t credible.