Pennsylvania death row inmate deemed “likely innocent” shows virus symptoms

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Two weeks after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office said he is “likely innocent” and urged his release, Walter Ogrod is showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Authorities delayed a hearing last week that could have prompted Ogrod’s release from a state prison outside Philadelphia, as they scaled back court operations amid concerns about the virus.

But on March 11, Ogrod was placed in isolation at State Correctional Institution – Phoenix because of flu-like symptoms.

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Unrequited Innocence

“He is now showing potentially life-threatening signs of COVID-19 with a high fever, cough, and difficulty breathing,” Ogrod’s attorney James Rollins said in a statement released Wednesday. “The prison is unable to provide the treatment that he needs.”

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Ogrod has not yet been tested for the virus. But his attorneys wrote in a court filing that Ogrod’s fever had spiked to 106 degrees after he was put in isolation.

In a pair of emergency motions filed on Wednesday, the attorneys seek an expedited ruling on his unopposed innocence claim and an emergency order “requiring the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) to take him to a hospital outside of the prison for COVID-19 testing and appropriate treatment.”

Courtesy of Attorneys for Walter Ogrod

Walter Ogrod

Rollins said in his statement as the motions were filed, “Every day a decision and/or hearing is delayed is another day that Mr. Ogrod remains on death row for a crime he did not commit and at grave risk to his life.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has taken some steps to deal with the pandemic, including suspending visitation and ramping up soap production in the prison system, according to its website. However, it appears that no prisoners have received tests for COVID-19.

Ogrod’s case was was featured in the Injustice Watch series “Unrequited Innocence.”

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office has since noted that Ogrod’s case was rife with issues, including a lack of credible evidence and reliance on a notoriously unreliable jailhouse informant.

“Given the clear, compelling and uncontested evidence that he is innocent, the Court must do everything in its power to mitigate the injustice and allow Mr. Ogrod to obtain medical treatment,” Rollins wrote in his statement.