One of America’s most recognizable television cops, Ice-T, better known by tens of millions as NYPD Detective Tutuola from the longest-running live-action drama in television history, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit sent a powerful message to Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland – intensifying the push to give a Chester man who has been sitting in prison for over 39 years a DNA test.
“This is a very serious message for Leroy Evans,” Ice-T said in a video message directed to Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland. “Leroy, from what I understand, has been in prison for 39 years for a crime that he did not commit. Now all he is fighting for is DNA testing – that they refuse to test – even despite another man confessing to it.”
“Come on DA, you know I’m not a real cop and I just play one on TV,” he continued. “But I think this man, after 39 years in prison, whatever the crime may be, deserves at least to get that DNA test so he can clear himself.”
Leroy Evans was convicted for the 1980 murder of “Avon Lady” Emily Leo. But according to the findings of Evans’ defense attorney, Michael J. Malloy, the case again Evans was built singularly on eyewitness testimony that was recanted in an hour-long confession conducted by Malloy on July 26, 2016 at SCI Forest in Marienville, Pennsylvania.
“As I began to read the trial testimony, certain facts made no sense,” Evans’ defense attorney, Michael J. Malloy told us. “First of all, why was there no blood present at a brutal, bloody crime scene.”
More than 30 years later, Malloy believes he found that evidence — and that it clears Evans’ name. In 2016, Jones gave a nearly 70-page sworn statement, recanting his trial testimony that implicated Evans.
“This case is more than about justice. This is a case about a kind, gentle man who holds no grudges against the person or people that have taken away his life for nearly 4o years,” Malloy told us. “I don’t believe I can live with myself unless I fight this to the end.”
Copeland, a longtime Republican, was appointed in January 2018 to serve out the remainder of former District Attorney Jack Whelan’s term when he was elected to serve as a judge at the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. Copeland did not return repeated requests for comment.
Jack Stollsteimer, a Democratic candidate for Delaware County District Attorney and former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania also chimed in, calling on District Attorney Copeland to reopen the case.
“Leroy has always maintained his innocent in the murder of Mrs. Leo and was convicted at trial largely on the testimony of an accomplice, Anthony Tyrone Jones,” Stollsteimer told us. “Mr. Jones has since recanted his testimony and provided a sworn statement that not only exonerates Mr. Evans but provides new information about the crime that better conforms to the evidence presented at trial.”
“After reviewing the evidence in this case, I called on District Attorney Katayoun Copeland to agree to the defense request for DNA testing,” Stollsteimer continued. “It is, I believe what any fair, experience prosecutor would do.”
“I’m proud to stand with SVUDetective Tutuola as he joins Leroy Evans in his fight for justice.”
Delaware County Councilman Kevin M. Madden was the only council member willing to discuss the case, joining Democratic candidate Stollsteimer in calling for District Attorney Copeland to reconsider the case against Evans, asking her office to re-open the case.
“From my understanding of the case, the only evidence implicating Mr. Evans was the testimony of a 16-year-old co-defendant who was being threatened with the death penalty unless he came up with an accomplice – testimony that this man has now admitted was made up,” Madden told us. “If the DA is willing to open the case, DNA testing can help exonerate a man who has now spent 39 years behind bars for a crime that there is now zero evidence he committed.”
“I join the call to DA Copeland to re-open the case, test for DNA, and perhaps put an end to the gross miscarriage of justice that has cost a man his life,” Madden continued.
Evans’ lawyer, Michael J. Malloy, lost a recent battle before Judge James Bradley where he sought DNA testing on the clothesline, the victim’s clothing, two pocketbooks, a date planner and other items allegedly grabbed by Evans during the murder. The murder weapon was never recovered.
During the proceeding, Assistant District Attorney William Toal III argued that the relief being sought is well outside of the statute of limitations for Evans’ case and that there are no “new facts” that would justify reopening the investigation.
However, the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit star urges the district attorney to rethink her office’s decision.
“You know that DNA has been clearing a lot of people,” Ice-T said. “I think everybody at least deserves a chance to use the new technology – 39 years ago, there wasn’t even DNA testing. I think it’s only right.”
“Leroy, you’ve [been] in there [for] 39 [years] – I can’t even imagine it, so good luck with this fight man.”