Walter Ogrod was 23 in July 1988 when his neighbor, four-year-old Barbara Jean Horn, was sexually assaulted and murdered in Philadelphia. In 1992, he confessed to the crime but during his 1993 trial his attorneys argued that the confession was coerced and that eye-witnesses saw a man that didn’t look like Ogrod at the scene, the Guardian reported.
The trial ended in a mistrial as one juror did not agree with the other 11 to acquit. The second trial in 1996 ended in a conviction and death penalty sentence. In the years following the verdict, Ogrod continued to protest his innocence and Horn’s mother also said in a statement, according to the Guardian:
There is no question in my mind that Mr Ogrod is innocent and that he should be released from prison immediately. My daughter is never coming home but I wanted justice for her, not simply a closed case with an innocent person in jail. Two families have already been destroyed. Keeping Mr Ogrod in prison does nothing to accomplish my goal of bringing the person that killed my Barbara Jean to justice.
Where is Walter Ogrod today?
Ogrod Was Freed in 2020, 28 Years After He Was Wrongfully Imprisoned & Sentenced to Death
Ogrod, who has autism, signed a false confession after hours of police interviews without an attorney present. He described death row as “the massacre of ourselves.” He told Injustice Watch, “You’re in your cell 22 hours a day. You get two hours out Monday through Friday.” He said the guards were a*******, including one who was convicted of war crimes at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and who beat the inmates, the outlet wrote.
Ogrod was freed on June 5, 2020, 28 years after he was imprisoned on death row for a murder he didn’t commit. At a hearing in June 2020, prosecutors requested that the judge vacate Ogrod’s conviction and death sentence after the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office determined in March 2020 that Ogrod was “likely innocent” and a “gross miscarriage of justice” had taken place, according to Injustice Watch.
The prosecutors determined that Ogrod’s conviction was based mainly on a false confession that he’d signed but was written by a detective, as well as a jailhouse informant who’d lied. DNA testing then found that there was no link between Ogrod and Horn’s murder, the outlet wrote.
Prosecutors Apologized to Ogrod at His Hearing & He Is Now Suing the City of Philadelphia
At the hearing, prosecutor Carrie Wood tearfully apologized to Ogrod, telling the wrongfully convicted man, “I’m sorry it took 28 years for us to listen to what Barbara Jean was trying to tell us. That you are innocent, and that the words on your statement of confession came from Philadelphia police detectives and not you.” Ogrod, 56 years old at the time, walked out of prison two hours after the hearing on June 5, 2020.
In June 2021, Ogrod and his attorneys sued the city of Philadelphia. “Well, I want the city to pay for this. Pay for putting me in a cage. I mean, you’re in there 24/7 all day, only maybe two hours out but sometimes you don’t. You have mental problems when you get out,” Ogrod said, according to CBS local. Pennsylvania, along with 13 other states, does not compensate individuals who were wrongfully convicted so a lawsuit is Ogrod’s only option for monetary compensation.