Pennsylvania: Samuel Randolph released from death row as innocent

A court in Harrisburg in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania has granted the Dauphin County prosecutor’s request to drop all charges against Samuel Randolph IV. In doing so, he was acquitted of the double murder charge that landed him on Pennsylvania’s death row in 2003.

District Attorney Fran Chardo requested that Mr. Randolph’s prosecution be dropped. While declining to concede Randolph’s innocence, she stated that retrial was not in the public interest at this time because a number of prosecution witnesses were deceased or unavailable for other reasons.

A federal district court had already overturned Randolph’s conviction in 2020 on the grounds that the court violated Randolph’s right to representation by counsel of his choice by preventing his family’s retained counsel from intervening in the case and forcing Randolph to go to trial with an unprepared public defender.

As early as 2021, Chardo had offered Randolph a plea deal in which he would still be able to maintain his innocence but would have to admit that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him. Under that deal, Randolph would have been released for time served, but his conviction would remain on his record. “I didn’t do that. Innocent people don’t plead guilty – as much as I want to go home,” Randolph said of that.

Randolph is the 187th person to be exonerated of a wrongful conviction and death sentence in the United States since 1973. He is the 11th Pennsylvania death row inmate to be exonerated. Five of those exonerations have taken place since 2019. All five cases involved both official misconduct and perjury or false accusations. Four of the five cases also involved inadequate legal representation at trial.