Man Who Defended Himself Acquitted of Murder After 13 Years in Prison
Hassan Bennett hit the law books and learned legal writing while serving time in prison in order to represent himself in a trial revisiting his conviction for a murder he didn't commit. He's now a free man.
After serving 13 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, 36-year-old Hassan Bennett walked out of prison a free man, thanks to his own hard work to prove his innocence.
Bennett was confident jurors would find him “not guilty” at the end of a re-trial where he represented himself.
In 2017, he successfully argued his appeal for a reconsideration of his case claiming he had ineffective counsel when he was convicted of murder in 2008.
Bennett was wrongly accused of killing 19-year-old Devon English who was sitting in a parked car with a friend when he was shot. Bennett allegedly shot the young man after losing $20 in a dice game.
Only 20 years old then, Bennett insisted on his innocence and claimed he was home on the phone when he heard gunshots and rushed to the scene of the crime. English’s friend, Corey Ford who was with him in the car and was also shot in the leg first identified Bennett as the suspect in the shooting but later recanted his story. Instead, he accused homicide detective James Pitts of coercion so he would incriminate Bennett.
It turned out, it was actually Lamont Dade, a 16-year-old who also previously identified Bennett as the shooter that played a role in the crime. He now serves 25 to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty.
DETERMINED TO BE FREED
While serving time in prison, Bennett was determined to free himself. The high school graduate studied law in the prison library and practiced legal writing with the help of his cellmate he considers his prison guru.
During his re-trial, Bennett represented himself and used his phone records as proof of his innocence. His previous lawyer failed to present this during his first trial when he was convicted. Bennett also pinned Pitts for coercion presenting evidence from ten different cases where he also manipulated witnesses’ statements. This along with witnesses who corroborated Bennett’s alibi that he was home at the time of the shooting sealed his fate as a free man.
A FREE MAN
On May 6, Bennett finally walked out of the Stout Center for Criminal Justice in Philadelphia free from the chains of his prior conviction.
Though Bennett convinced the jury of his innocence, some people weren’t buying his story. This includes the Philadelphia District Attorney and Tina Lee, English’s aunt.
Regardless, Bennett celebrated his victory and freedom by first enjoying a home-cooked meal and learning how to use an android phone. He also agreed to do investigative work for a lawyer who was assigned by the court as his standby counsel. And by the way, he's now on Twitter.
In a few years’ time, he may take the bar exam and try his luck as a professional lawyer.