Prosecutor: No retrial sought for pair whose convictions as teens in Philly murder were tossed


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PHILADELPHIA — Prosecutors announced Wednesday that they will not seek to retry two former defendants in the robbery and murder of a Philadelphia businessman almost two decades ago.

Charges were withdrawn against Eugene Gilyard and Lance Felder, the Philadelphia district attorney's office said. Both were 16 when they were arrested in the 1995 slaying of Thomas Keal, 52, a popular north Philadelphia businessman who owned a bar and seafood store.

The men, now 35, each served 15 years of a life sentence before a judge threw out the convictions and ordered a retrial last fall, calling the 1998 trial evidence "terribly weak." The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which took up the case, called it a prime example of the problems with eyewitness identification not corroborated by other evidence.

"The passage of so many years and inconsistencies between witnesses from the initial investigation and witnesses that came to light more recently has compromised the evidence to the point that we cannot proceed against Eugene Gilyard and Lance Felder," the district attorney's office said in a statement.

The appeal also cited new evidence including a 2011 confession from a man serving life in another slaying. Philadelphia prosecutors said the man who confessed was offered $10,000 by supporters, and had nothing to lose given his life sentence. The judge, however, said he was a named suspect from the day of the crime and also acknowledged on prison phone calls that the defendants weren't involved. She also said he never got the money, despite the confession, which he later recanted.

The district attorney's office raised the same objections to the credibility of the confession Wednesday but said "the end result is that the office cannot prosecute Gilyard or Felder, or anyone else at this time."

The case also pitted brother against brother, with testimony last year alleging that Felder was not the getaway driver but pointing the finger at one of his brothers.

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