‘The Best News I’ve Heard in All My Life’: Termaine Hicks Is Exonerated After 19 Years of Wrongful Incarceration

On Wednesday, Termaine Hicks received the “the best I’ve heard in all my life.” After 19 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Mr. Hicks was going home.

“The other guys on the cell block were shouting. They were happy for me, banging on doors,” he said. 

Mr. Hicks was exonerated after the Philadelphia Conviction Integrity Unit, led by Patricia Cummings, joined the Innocence Project’s motion to vacate his conviction.

Mr. Hicks, an Innocence Project client, was wrongly convicted of a rape that took place in Philadelphia in 2001. Then a 26-year-old father of one, Mr. Hicks had been walking home when he heard a woman screaming. She was badly beaten, so he reached for his cell phone to call 911. At that moment, police, responding to the calls of several neighbors, arrived on the scene.

They shot him three times in the back. Only after did they realize their mistake — Mr. Hicks was not the right person. The man they had just shot did not match the description of the attacker provided by a witness, who saw the assailant dragging the victim into an alley. And he was unarmed.

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Kamala Harris, Prosecutor’s Tale

Harris offered a pair of stories as evidence of the importance of a Black woman’s doing this work. Once, ear hustling, she listened to colleagues discussing ways to prove criminal defendants were gang-affiliated.

If a racial-profiling manual existed, their signals would certainly be included: baggy pants, the place of arrest and the rap music blaring from vehicles.

She said that she’d told her colleagues: “So, you know that neighborhood you were talking about? Well, I got family members and friends who live in that neighborhood. You know the way you were talking about how folks were dressed? Well, that’s actually stylish in my community.”

She continued: “You know that music you were talking about? Well, I got a tape of that music in my car right now.”

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