The city will award $1.9 million dollars to the four men wrongfully incarcerated for a December 2000 multiple homicide as part of a recent settlement agreement.
The money, after legal fees, is to be divided evenly among Jermel Lewis, Quiante Perrin, Hezekiah Thomas and Sacon Youk, who were arrested in January 2001 in connection with the so-called "Lex Street Massacre," which occurred on Dec. 28, 2000.
The murders occurred on Lex Street after four men clad in black ski masks entered a row house and forced 10 people to lay face down on the floor of the home. The men then allegedly released a spray of gunfire that killed seven and injured three.
Philadelphia Police arrested the four men based on the theory that the murders were committed as part of a dispute over drug territory. It was later determined that the incident was in fact the result of a neighborhood altercation over a car.
Following his arrest, Lewis confessed to the crime due to "a combination of misinformation [and] coercion" on behalf of the Philadelphia Police, a source familiar with the case said.
"Mr. Lewis may have been on drugs that day and that makes him much more vulnerable" to such police tactics, according to the source.
After their respective convictions, the men served 18 months in jail until the District Attorney's Office dropped all charges, along with its pursuit of the death penalty in the case.
The men then filed a civil case against "the city and various police officers primarily from the homicide division of the Philadelphia Police Department," according to the source.
As a result, the parties reached a settlement agreement during the last two weeks. The case had been in progress for the last six to nine months.
When asked about the settlement, the source responded, "I don't know if anything is adequate."
The source added, "Does it go a long way? The answer is sure."
Milton Velez, special assistant to the city solicitor, said that "this settlement is in the best interest of the City of Philadelphia and the named plaintiffs."
Though the attorneys worked as a team, each plaintiff was represented by separate counsel. Law School Professor David Rudovsky represented Lewis; attorneys Alan Yatvin, Nino Tinari and Stephen Saltz represented the others.
Final settlement of the case will occur once both parties have exchanged the necessary paperwork, according to Velez. The city is "still awaiting return of releases from the plaintiffs" which indicate their acceptance of the settlement, he said.
Four new suspects -- Shihean Black, Dawud Faruqi, Khalid Faruqi and Bruce Veney -- were arrested in connection with the murders in November 2002. Their case is still pending.
Cathie Abookire, spokeswoman for the DA's Office, expressed confidence that the current defendants are in fact being rightfully prosecuted.
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