A thorough investigation found co-defendant’s testimony unreliable resulting in judge granting new trial and relief for Evans
HARRISBURG—Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced today, following an investigation by his office’s Conviction Integrity Section, post conviction relief has been granted to Leroy Evans, a Delaware County man who has served 41 years in prison for a conviction of first degree murder.
Over the past four decades, Evans’ alleged co-defendant has recanted crucial testimony given at trial regarding Evans’ involvement in the murder of Emily Leo in 1981. Today, following the Conviction Integrity Section’s agreement to PCRA relief, a Delaware County judge granted PCRA for Evans that resulted in allowing for a new trial and subsequent plea by Evans to third degree murder, allowing him to be released from jail on a time-served sentence. Although the co-defendant’s testimony, which was crucial to a first degree murder conviction, was found unreliable, Evans could not be fully exonerated of involvement in the murder based on other evidence presented.
“This is a powerful reminder of the importance of ensuring justice for all Pennsylvanians,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “For our justice system to function properly, it is critical that convictions are based on facts. Throughout my team’s review of this case, we found that reliance on the co-defendant’s testimony, that was shown to lack reliability over time, led to Mr. Evans’ first degree murder conviction. I am proud of the work the Conviction Integrity Section has done over the past year and a half reviewing this case. My deepest sympathies continue to go out to the Leo family on their long and necessary journey of healing.”
Evans, now 64, was convicted of the first degree murder of Emily Leo in 1981. The primary evidence against Evans was the testimony of co-defendant Anthony Jones. However, over the past 40 years, Jones’ testimony has been proven unreliable based on multiple inconsistent recounts of events and several attempts to recant his original testimony pertaining to Evans’ involvement.
In September 2020, the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office referred the matter to the Office of Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Section (CIS) for review. After an extensive review of all available physical evidence, transcripts of the preliminary hearings, trials, post-conviction proceedings, and statements made by Jones over the last 40 years as well as Court Opinions, briefs and the police reports, the CIS did not find a basis for complete exoneration. However, in the interest of justice, the Office of Attorney General agreed that a 2016 statement by the co-defendant, denying that Evans was involved in the murder, and new details about the crime should be considered as newly discovered evidence by the Court.
Today, a hearing was held and the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Kevin F. Kelly granted PCRA relief in the form of a new trial. Leroy Evans immediately pleaded nolo contendere to third degree murder and was resentenced to the statutory maximum. With credit of 41 years served, Evans is expected to be released from the courthouse today.
Prior to today’s hearing, the Office of Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Section worked to connect the Leo family with the Pennsylvania Office of Victim Advocate and communicated the results of our investigation to her family.
The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Section (CIS) reviews credible claims of innocence in coordination with district attorneys to correct any miscarriage of justice and seek the truth. This case was referred to the Office of Attorney General by the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.
This case is being handled by Chief Deputy Attorney General of the Conviction Integrity Section, Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser and Senior Deputy Attorney General Kelly Sekula.
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