Civics: Chester HolLman iii

Registry of Exonerations:

Chester Hollman III with his father, Chester Sr. (left) and his sister, Deanna. (Photo: Steven M. Falk/
Shortly before 1 a.m. on August 20, 1991, 24-year-old Tae Jung Ho, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, was robbed and shot to death as he walked with a friend near 22nd and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Ho’s friend, Junko Nihei, told police that two black men approached and pushed Ho to the pavement. One man, wearing red shorts, held his legs and searched his pockets. The other man, wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt, put a handgun to Ho’s chest and pulled the trigger. Ho was four days away from returning to his home in South Korea. Nihei said neither man wore glasses or a hat.

John Henderson, a taxi driver, told police he saw the flash of a pistol and a man wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt get into a white vehicle on Chestnut Street. He said he saw four people in the car and after following it for seven blocks, he lost sight of it. Henderson told police the vehicle’s license plate contained the letters YZA, but he did not get the numbers.

At 1:01 a.m., police broadcast the description of the vehicle. Four minutes later and six blocks from the crime, police pulled over a white Chevrolet Blazer which had a license plate with the letters YZA. The driver, 21-year-old Chester Hollman III, and his passenger, Deirdre Jones, were the only occupants. Police searched the vehicle, but found no weapon or anything related to the crime.

Hollman, who was wearing green pants, glasses and a hat, said the SUV had been rented from Alamo Rent-A-Car by his roommate, Shawn Boyce, who was in New York City that night and gave Hollman permission to use it. Hollman said he asked Jones, his neighbor, to go out with him. He said no others had been in the vehicle that night and he knew nothing about the crime.

Police brought Hollman to the scene of the crime. Andre Dawkins, a homeless crack addict with a history of schizophrenia and alcohol abuse, identified Hollman as the man who held Ho’s legs and searched his pockets.

Hollman and Jones were taken to the police station and interrogated separately. Hollman denied involvement in the crime. He said he had a steady job working for an armored car company.

Detectives falsely told Jones that Hollman had confessed to taking part in the crime and that she would not be charged if she implicated him. Ultimately, Jones gave a statement saying that there had been two others in the car—a man and a woman—although she did not know their names. Jones’s statement said that the other woman got behind the wheel while Hollman and the other man committed the crime. She said that she heard a shot and saw the victim fall—which was untrue because Ho’s friend said he was lying on the pavement when he was shot. Hollman and the other man got back in the vehicle and they drove off. The unknown couple then got out at some location prior to police pulling over the vehicle.

Police located several witnesses who said they saw two people in a car from which the two men fled after robbing and killing Ho. Three of them said the vehicle was a white Chevrolet Blazer with a woman behind the wheel.

Dawkins was brought to the police station and gave a statement that he was working at a nearby gas station sweeping the parking lot when he saw a white Chevrolet Blazer parked with its engine running. He said he was speaking to the driver, a woman, when the shooting occurred. He initially said he only heard the shots.