The C.J. Rice Story: Innocent Man Exonerated After Spending 12 Years Behind Bars Over 2011 Shooting

C.J. Rice

After more than a decade of maintaining his innocence, C.J. Rice, formerly known as Charles J. Rice, has been officially exonerated from a wrongful conviction that resulted in over 12 years of imprisonment.

The exoneration was pronounced at the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice in Philadelphia on Monday morning, marking the end of a lengthy legal battle for Rice.

Rice was convicted in connection with a shooting incident that occurred in South Philadelphia in September 2011, which resulted in multiple injuries, including Latrice Johnson, a 6-year-old girl, and two others.

Despite inconsistencies in the evidence and witness statements, Rice was falsely accused and sentenced to 30-60 years behind bars in 2013.

The case against Rice relied heavily on the testimony of Latrice Johnson, who identified him as one of the shooters based on a vague description provided to authorities while she was hospitalized.

However, Rice’s defense team highlighted critical flaws in the prosecution’s case, including the lack of corroborating evidence and ineffective counsel.

“This is not something that would have happened under a prior administration,” stated Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner during a news conference following Rice’s exoneration.

Krasner’s office moved to drop all charges against Rice, citing weak evidence and the failure to provide adequate legal representation during the trial.

One of Rice’s defense attorneys, Karl Schwartz, emphasized the role of ineffective counsel in Rice’s wrongful conviction, pointing out crucial pieces of evidence that were overlooked during the trial.

Despite being shot and injured prior to the incident, Rice’s medical records were not presented in court, potentially swaying the jury’s decision.

Rice’s case gained national attention, with CNN anchor Jake Tapper highlighting the miscarriage of justice. Dr. Theodore Tapper, Jake Tapper’s father and Rice’s former doctor, attested to Rice’s innocence, stating that Rice’s physical condition at the time made it impossible for him to be involved in the shooting.

In November 2023, the U.S. District Court vacated Rice’s conviction, acknowledging the grave miscarriage of justice he endured. Rice had been out on bail since December, awaiting the final resolution of his case.

Following the dismissal of all charges against Rice by the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Monday, members of various legal advocacy groups, including the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, celebrated Rice’s exoneration as a victory for justice.

Nilam Sanghvi of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project expressed relief for Rice and emphasized the opportunity for him to rebuild his life after years of wrongful imprisonment.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner affirmed that his office’s decision not to pursue the case further was based on the inability to establish Rice’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

With his exoneration, C.J. Rice is now a free man, bringing an end to a harrowing chapter of wrongful conviction and incarceration.