On September 18, 1986, 31-year-old Robert Harris was fatally shot in the Pike Bar in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in what police believed was a drug-related shooting.
Although there were numerous people in the tavern, no one came forward to say they saw the shooting until several months later when Pamela Jenkins told detectives that she lived across the street from Pike Bar and was there with a girlfriend at the time of the shooting. Jenkins said she saw 40-year-old Raymond Carter with a gun and heard one gunshot.
Carter was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He went on trial in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas in February 1988. Jenkins testified and identified Carter as the gunman. She said she heard one gunshot.
Evidence presented by both the prosecution and the defense at times contradicted Jenkins: Harris had been shot three times, not once; the bartender testified that she did not see Jenkins on the night of the crime; and the friend who Jenkins claimed to be drinking with said she and Jenkins were both home that night.
In February 1988, a judge who heard the case without a jury convicted Carter of first-degree murder, criminal conspiracy, and possessing the instruments of a crime. Carter was sentenced to life in prison.
In 1994, a sweeping investigation of police corruption focused on several Philadelphia police officers, including Officer Thomas Ryan, for framing people suspected of dealing and possessing narcotics. Ryan was indicted in February 1995 for framing suspects. He pled guilty and was sentenced to 10 months in prison.
Not long after Carter was convicted, evidence emerged that Ryan had paid Jenkins $500 for her testimony in Carter’s trial—$300 prior to trial and $200 afterward. Jenkins had been a long-time informant for Ryan, she admitted. The payment of money and her status as an informant had not been disclosed to Carter’s defense.
Jenkins was an admitted cocaine user and testified at a hearing on a defense motion to vacate Carter’s conviction. She said that she had been Ryan's girlfriend and that they began dating after he arrested her years earlier, when she was a 16-year-old high school student.
In September 1996, Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph I. Papalini vacated Carter’s first-degree murder conviction, ruling that if the information about Ryan’s relationship with Jenkins had been disclosed at trial, Carter probably would have been acquitted. Papalini ordered a new trial.
On December 27, 1996, the prosecution dismissed the charges and Carter was released.
– Maurice Possley