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Tyree Wallace is serving a life sentence for a crime he did not commit. Mr. Wallace, now 42 years old, has been incarcerated for 23 years as a result of his arrest, prosecution and conviction in connection with the October 27, 1997 robbery and murder of Mr. Young Su Kang. As no physical evidence was introduced, Mr. Wallace’s conviction was based almost entirely on the inculpatory testimony of three witnesses. An investigation conducted during 2016 and 2017 by the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, however, has shown that the testimony implicating Mr. Wallace was false; it was provided only as a result of police intimidation and coercion and to preserve the witnesses’ self interest in avoiding punishment for their own crimes. In fact, as investigation has shown, Mr. Wallace had nothing to do with the robbery and murder of Mr. Kang. He is innocent.
In numerous Post Conviction Relief Act hearings, Mr. Wallace has attempted to have his case retried. Unfortunately, due to a variety of circumstances beyond his control – including witnesses with ulterior motives and/or mental-health and substance-abuse issues – these attempts have been unsuccessful. Mr. Wallace’s current lawyers, Jonathan Feinberg (of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin, LLP) and Nilam Sanghvi (Legal Director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project), continue to pursue challenges to Mr. Wallace’s conviction through the presentation of new and recently discovered evidence. In those challenges, his counsel have alleged, among other things, that the testimony of the prosecution’s key witness has been proven false as a result of new evidence given by multiple other witnesses. These facts, when combined with Mr. Wallace’s unequivocal passage of a polygraph examination, provide substantial evidence of Mr. Wallace’s innocence.
While, in the name of justice, there is ample reason for Mr. Wallace to be released from prison, should there be any question as to the propriety of this, Mr. Wallace’s remarkable character confirms that he is absolutely deserving of release.
Mr. Wallace has experienced sustained success during his incarceration. Despite the sense of hopelessness naturally flowing from a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, Mr. Wallace has used his time to improve himself and the lives of those surrounding him. Mr. Wallace has, among other things, completed his GED, and he has participated in anger management and “positive mental attitude” groups. Putting his educational success to good use, he has taught other inmates as an employee of the prison education department. Moreover, Mr. Wallace is a volunteer in the hospice unit at SCI- Phoenix.
Significantly, Mr. Wallace has demonstrated himself to be a natural leader in the prisoner population. He founded a chapter of the Pennsylvania Lifers’ Association at SCI-Smithfield and served as the organization’s president. Through that organization, Mr. Wallace promoted a sense of community both inside and outside the institution. The organization has sponsored a family forum for inmates serving life sentences, has developed a youth awareness group, and has coordinated charitable drives to purchase winter coats and school supplies for needy children and to make donations to Big Brothers/Big Sisters and a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Mr. Wallace has also served as a founding member of the Unity Team, an inmate group focused on eliminating racial and ethnic divisions within the inmate population, and the Alliance Group, a support group for LGBT prisoners.
Since his transfer to SCI-Phoenix in 2018, Mr. Wallace has co-founded the “Mann Up! Association” program for prisoners preparing for release. Through a variety of small- and large-group therapy sessions, skits, and musical and spoken-word performances, this immensely popular program helps prisoners acknowledge and come to terms with the various traumas they have experienced and have perpetrated. Serving 300-400 persons at a time, each fifteen-week series supports prisoners in learning to take responsibility for their choices and to begin creating more positive paths for themselves, their families, and their communities. When participants of the Mann Up Association are released they are urged to continue meeting at the Mann Up Hub which is held at the Institute for Community Justice. The program operates with the enthusiastic support of the prison superintendent and staff. Further, the Mann Up Association’s newest endeavor, the gun violence reduction and public safety initiative has been endorsed by Philadelphia’s District Attorney Larry Krasner.