PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Prosecutors said Thursday they will not re-try a Philadelphia man whose 2012 murder conviction was overturned earlier this month, citing weak evidence and the involvement of a disgraced former detective now charged with sexually assaulting witnesses in other cases.
Rafiq Dixon, 40, had been serving a life sentence in the 2011 fatal shooting of Joseph Pinkney. The 40-year-old was expected to be released from prison Thursday afternoon, hours after a Common Pleas Court judge granted the motion to withdraw charges, his attorney said.
The initial case relied heavily on testimony from three witnesses who gave inconsistent accounts. All three were interviewed by former homicide detective Philip Nordo, who has been charged with various crimes including stalking, intimidating, and sexually assaulting male suspects and witnesses during his career.
In June, a judge reversed the 2015 conviction of Arkel Garcia, who confessed to murder during an interrogation in which, his lawyer said, Nordo asked the teenager to view pornography with him. The ruling came after both sides presented evidence that Nordo had sexually groomed witnesses in the case and trial prosecutors had suppressed his misconduct. Garcia was also serving a life sentence.
At least eight murder cases involving Nordo have fallen apart before or after conviction, including five overturned convictions, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors Thursday did not accuse Nordo of similar behavior in Dixon’s case. The former detective has denied the allegations, and he’s scheduled for trial in May.
The case against Dixon was thrown out earlier this month after a judge found his initial attorney was ineffective after failing to call a witness who could present strong alibi evidence.
Dixon’s appeals attorney Craig Cooley said Thursday that he appreciated the willingness of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit’s attorneys to push for this outcome.
“Some family members are up at the prison right now,” Cooley said Thursday afternoon. “We’re all excited. I’ve represented Rafiq for eight years now. This was a long time coming. He’s always professed his innocence. He had strong alibi information that wasn’t presented in this case.”