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Conviction Integrity Unit Secures 32nd Exoneration

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PHILADELPHIA (July 24, 2023) – The Court of Common Pleas on Monday ordered a man convicted of homicide in 2016 freed after agreeing with the Commonwealth’s request to dismiss the charges, because there was insufficient reliable evidence to retry him for murder.

As part of a review of convictions tied to disgraced former Philadelphia homicide detective Philip Nordo, the DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit conceded that defendant Neftali Velasquez’s constitutional rights were violated in multiple ways during his 2016 trial for the 2012 murder of Domingo Rivera, during which all three witnesses presented by the Commonwealth recanted their earlier statements to police implicating Velasquez. Nordo’s misconduct and his efforts to illegally detain a key witness, whom he later interviewed, was not disclosed to the defense prior to trial. In March 2023, the Hon. Lillian Ransom granted Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) relief, vacating Velasquez’s conviction and ordering a new trial.

Following further investigation by the CIU, the Commonwealth on Monday moved to dismiss Velasquez’s prosecution, citing the misconduct involving former detective Nordo (who was convicted of rape, official oppression, and related crimes in 2022) who interviewed the key witness. In addition, one of the witnesses told prosecutors pre-trial that she had not actually seen the shooter’s face, while another one of the witnesses who recanted at trial had a prior conviction for murder, and other undisclosed serious criminal charges.

In a statement that was read to the court by CIU Supervisor Michael Garmisa, the family of Domingo Rivera expressed their enduring grief over his murder, and their anguish that the irreparably tainted 2016 arrest and prosecution had deprived them of a “measure of peace knowing the accused was convicted and would not hurt someone else’s loved one.”

“The family of Mr. Rivera has been revictimized,” ADA Garmisa said. “A system that allows a corrupt individual like Philip Nordo to operate within the criminal justice system for decades is one that – as the Rivera family notes – fails victims time and again.”

Velazquez’s conviction is one of dozens investigated by the CIU as part of a review of all convictions tied to former detective Nordo. To date, the review has produced seven exonerations and three resentencings, with new trials or judicial decisions pending for five defendants following advocacy by the CIU that PCRA relief was warranted.

Information on exonerations secured by the CIU can be found on the DA’s DATA Dashboard.


CONTACT:Jane Roh, 215-686-8711, [email protected]



The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million residents of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives, and support staff. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of approximately 40,000 criminal cases annually. Learn more about the DAO by visiting

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