Statement from District Attorney Seth Williams about Charges Being Dropped Against Tomayo McDuffy

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November 20, 2014: “Today my office withdrew charges against Tomayo McDuffy that arose from an alleged home invasion last year in Northeast Philadelphia. Although the original charging decision was appropriate based on the evidence then available, further information has now persuaded us that the evidence is not clear enough to warrant a trial.

This was a highly unusual case involving an apparently blind complaining witness, a service dog, and conflicts among neighbors and family members.

The original incident dates to May 2013. The complainant reported that two men had broken into her home in the middle of the night, that she recognized one of them by his voice as her next-door neighbor, and that her dog scared off the intruders and fetched her phone to call 911. Police responding to the scene found that the basement door had been forced open and that gas burners on the stove had been turned on.

In July 2013 an article in the Daily News raised questions about the victim’s account, quoting neighbors on the block and estranged relatives of the victim. The following week the judge reduced bail, but allowed the case to proceed.

In September 2013, the defendant made bail and was released from custody. Trial was accordingly scheduled for the fall of 2014. A request for a voice identification lineup was withdrawn by the defense in October of 2013.

New counsel entered an appearance for the defendant in December 2013, and provided us with a packet of information in May 2014. We followed up on that information, and eventually developed additional evidence raising substantial concerns about the victim’s prior history and visual acuity. A new voice lineup was held this month, resulting in a misidentification.

As a result, I have concluded that this case cannot proceed. As always in such circumstances, we must be fair both to the complainant and the defendant. Sometimes that takes time; the overburdened criminal justice system seldom moves as fast as it should. The last several years have seen major reforms that have significantly augmented and expedited the charging and investigative process for most cases. But there is always more to do, and we must and will do our part to seek justice in every case. I am thankful for all who helped to achieve this just result; my staff, defense counsel, the media, and all concerned members of the community who shared information with us.”


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