Sunday, May 10, 1992

Ed Ryder: The case for innocence

This is the first of many articles I wrote about the case of Ed Ryder, a man from North Philadelphia who had been in state prison nearly 20 years on a life sentence, convicted of murder on very shaky grounds. Everyone says that inmates will always tell you they are innocent, but I found out that this is not exactly true. They'll tell you that a lawyer botched their case or give you some convoluted story. Ryder was the first inmate I met who actually said, simply, he was innocent. And when I asked other longtime inmates about him, I found out that it was common knowledge he was innocent. After 18 years, a time when most lifers have come to terms with their imprisonment, he was still burning with anger about what had happened to him. Yet his temperament was sweet. He loved joking around and playing music; he was a good trumpeter. He was the most un-hardened criminal you could meet.

All of this led me to look into his case, and to link up with Jim McCloskey, a crusader for the wrongly convicted who had been examining the weaknesses in Ryder's prosecution point by point.

In Philadelphia it was very hard to get the prosecutor's office to admit to error and to get the courts to overturn a verdict. This story was not the first to be written about Ryder - I followed a trail of good reporters who had questioned the verdict over the years - but this was the first in a series that actually led to his freedom.

Helping to get some justice for Ryder was the most gratifying thing I was able to do as a reporter.

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