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DA’s Office Declines to Re-Try Charles Rice Following Gun Violence Task Force Investigation

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Courts Agree Rice was Wrongfully Convicted for 2011 Shootings of Gang Associate, Family

PHILADELPHIA (March 18, 2024) – The District Attorney’s Office on Monday moved to drop all charges against Charles J. Rice, whose conviction and sentence for a 2011 mass shooting in South Philadelphia was vacated by a federal court last November.

At a hearing on Monday before the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the Hon. James Eisenhower granted the DA’s motion to nolle pros all charges against Rice for the September 25, 2011, shooting upon a Point Breeze residence that injured a young man who was affiliated with a violent neighborhood group, along with his mother, sister, and young cousin. Rice was 17 years old at the time of the shooting.

Following a jury trial in 2013, Rice was convicted of four counts of Attempted MurderAggravated Assault, and related offenses, and sentenced to 30 to 60 years of incarceration. On September 22, 2023, the DA’s Federal Litigation Unit in response to Rice’s habeas petition conceded that the evidence implicating Rice was weak; that ineffective assistance of counsel likely produced Rice’s conviction on all counts while a co-defendant with different trial counsel was acquitted of the crime completely; and that Rice was entitled to habeas relief.

On November 27, 2023, days after his 30th birthday, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted Rice habeas relief and vacated his conviction and sentence. Rice then filed a motion for his release with bail conditions, which was granted by Common Pleas Court on December 19, 2023.

When Rice’s convictions were overturned, the DA’s Office was given six months to inform a state court of its decision to re-try Rice for the 2011 shooting or withdraw all charges, which would result in an exoneration. Due to presumed gang affiliation between the parties, District Attorney Larry Krasner assigned the Gun Violence Task Force (GVTF) to further investigate the crime for which Rice had been convicted.

Assistant District Attorney William Fritze, chief of the Gun Violence Task Force, led the investigation and made a recommendation to the DA’s Sentencing Review Committee that the Commonwealth would not be able to meet its burden of proof if it were to re-try Rice for the shooting. As of Monday, the administration of DA Larry Krasner has supported 44 exonerations of 43 wrongfully convicted people.

“I want to thank our Federal Litigation Unit and Gun Violence Task Force for their work toward achieving a just resolution of this matter. Mr. Rice did not receive effective assistance of defense counsel at trial, nor did this office under a prior administration conduct a vigorous investigation of potential alibis,” DA Krasner said. “I also want to acknowledge the manner in which Mr. Rice’s mother, a DAO paralegal at the time of his arrest, was treated by this office. All defendants are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. At minimum, this office should have made sure Mr. Rice had access to competent legal counsel, just as I and all DAO supervisors would if their own children were accused of a crime.”

“It is hard to go back in time and find additional evidence from a shooting over 10 years ago. The way we prosecute and use levels of forensic evidence to support witness testimony has monumentally changed in the past decade,” GVTF Chief Fritze added. “The Gun Violence Task Force did utilize all resources and made several attempts to compel witnesses to come forward. I find no wrongdoing on behalf of the previous prosecutors or detectives, and believe they did the best they could with the evidence they had. However, as of today I can say we would not meet our burden of proof and should not proceed further with this prosecution.”

Unlike his co-defendant, who was found not guilty of all charges because of alibi testimony, Rice’s alibi was less vigorously investigated by assigned DA Detectives, even though the assigned prosecutor made multiple requests that they do so. Instead, handwritten notes found in Rice’s case file indicate detectives made phone calls to alibi witnesses – most of whom were teenagers who resided at the same address – but did not attempt to physically locate them to be interviewed.

Further weakening an already weak case against Rice was the non-cooperation of a key trial witness: the mother of shooting victim Kalief Ladson, who was known by law enforcement to affiliate with a violent gang and who today is serving a federal sentence for an unrelated crime. Neither Ladson nor his mother responded to repeated attempts by the Gun Violence Task Force to re-interview them. There continues to be no corroboration of Ladson’s mother’s identification of Rice as the shooter.

Additionally, the mother’s witness identification at trial is problematic for the Commonwealth: she described him as having his hair in braids during the shooting, which framed his face. A photo of Rice with braids hanging around his face, taken in March 2011 when he was arrested for selling drugs, was used in a photo array presented to the mother by police for further identification.

But at the time of Rice’s arrest two days after the September 2011 shooting, his hair was braided away from his face in corn rows to the back of the neck. The GVTF consulted with certified hair stylists who are experienced with Black clients. The certified hair stylists provided an opinion that visible fraying and wear of Rice’s cornrows in the September 2011 booking photo indicate they had been styled three or four weeks prior. The GVTF concluded it was improbable that Rice’s hair was in braids hanging around his face on the day of the shooting – as Ladsen’s mother had testified – and that he’d had it freshly styled into cornrows that were fraying and broken before turning himself in for arrest two days later.

None of the other victims identified Rice as a shooter. Rice himself had been shot about three weeks prior to the shooting for which he was convicted. But there was no information beyond Commonwealth’s theory indicating Ladson may have been involved in shooting Rice. While Rice’s co-defendant was with him when he’d been shot – leading the Commonwealth to argue that Ladson had been shot in retaliation – Rice’s co-defendant’s alibi was more thoroughly investigated by Philadelphia Police South Detectives and presented at trial, which resulted in acquittal, while Rice’s alibi was less thoroughly investigated by DA Detectives, which may have helped result in his conviction.

As Federal Litigation prosecutors conceded in September 2023, Rice’s counsel erred grievously by not challenging Commonwealth’s description of Ladson as a person of interest in the shooting that injured Rice:

“Trial counsel performed deficiently because there was no plausible strategic reason for her to agree to this stipulation. As a hearing two days before trial made clear, the evidence was inadmissible at trial because the prosecution could not establish any foundation for it—i.e., how the police concluded that Ladson was a person of interest. Instead of keeping this damaging fact out of the trial, trial counsel handed the prosecution a gift, allowing them to introduce an ‘extremely, extremely important’ piece of its case without any adversarial testing.” 

The DA’s response to Rice’s habeas relief claims can be found on Information on exonerations — which occur when a court both vacates a conviction and grants a motion to nolle pros the charges — secured by the DA’s CIU and Law Division 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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