My name is India Spellman and I am an innocent young lady that has spent over a decade in SCI Cambridge Springs for a crime I did not commit or have any involvement in whatsoever. I have been sentenced to a lifetime behind bars.
To be frank, I’ve spent my entire adult life behind bars. I’ll never get those years back.
I know that everyone claims that they are innocent but I am truly innocent and the facts of this case will prove that legally and factually that I am innocent.
On August 18, 2010, about a month after my 17th birthday, I was in my house with my father and grandfather checking my Facebook page and talking on my cellphone unbeknownst to me, while I was in my house someone was committing a robbery that lead to the death of someone.
Two days later on August 20, 2010, after receiving my check from Dunkin Donuts where I was employed, I had gone home to get ready to go to the mall. While I was upstairs getting ready to leave I was called downstairs by my grandfather. Upon my arrival in the living room, I came face to face with police and detectives. These strange men asked me to have a seat on the couch and asked me if I knew the reason for their visit. I answered that I did not know what they were there for and they told my grandfather that they were taking me to the police station to question me. No one ever told me that I was under arrest. I just thought that I was going to the police station to answer some questions little did I know that they would be taking me to the Homicide Department!
This is when my life as I knew it would be no more. I sat in the interrogation room for hours in silence crying trying to figure out what was going on and why was I there. Then a detective came in and start asking me did I know why I was there and again I told him no, I did not know why I was there. I was repeatedly told that I was a liar and that I knew what I was there for. The more he hollered at me the more I cried and asked for my parents. I was told that my parents had left and went home.
I kept telling the detective that I had no idea what they were speaking about. The detective left and a few minutes later Detective Pitts came in the room. His demeanor was totally different than the previous detective. Detective Pitts was extremely hostile and abusive- I was hit in the mouth and he called me I liar, he said that I robbed and killed a man. By this time, I was hysterical and terrified. I was being accused of robbery and even worst murder! All I wanted was for my parents to come get me and take me home.
I was a 17-year-old law-abiding citizen. I had never been in any kind of trouble with the law. I was a young woman with goals, dreams and aspirations. I had plans to go to college and play basketball and possibly go to the WNBA- I was extremely passionate about l basketball. My hopes and dreams were crushed before they even had a chance to manifest.
My dreams were snatched away and shattered in a blink of an eye. I was never given a fair chance to prove my innocence. All I want is for the fact to be reviewed and justice given on the merits of the fact.
On August 18, 2010, at the time of the robbery and murder, India was at home with her father and grandfather talking on her cellphone and on Facebook.
India’s Father Bruce Stafford Jr., grandfather Bruce Stafford Sr., and Shoshanna Christmas gave statements confirming this. There is also T-Mobile cellphone records from India’s phone to confirm this.
There were two perpetrators male and female, in this case. The male was a 14-year-old child with a distinguishing facial tattoo. He was turned in to the police by a family member.
Witnesses describe the Black female as dark-skinned, “thick”, size 18, 180 lbs, age 25 – 30, and wearing dark, full-length Muslim garments.
Looking at this photograph of India taken around the time of this incident, India is light-skinned and skinny not dark-skin and thick.
Homicide detectives began focusing on India as a suspect following their meeting with the 14-year-old and his family member.
The child falsely identified India as the shooter in a signed statement to police. At trial, he made numerous false statements and fabricated testimony against India.
He later indicated that his initial statement implicating India was the result of coercion.
Homicide detectives actively prevented Spellman, a minor, from access to her parents during her interrogation. This is a denial of her basic Constitutional rights. Juveniles, because they are particularly vulnerable to pressure and threats, are entitled to enhanced protection.
Detectives not only denied India’s repeated requests to have her parents present, they used subversion and lies to trick her parents into leaving the police station before she was interrogated.
The jury never heard from India’s alibi witnesses. They did not get a chance to look at the phone records. Why? Her trial attorney did not bother to introduce this important evidence at trial.
An eyewitness at trial claimed she saw Spellman running away from the scene of the homicide after the female shot the victim. But a month after the crime, years before trial, this person told the DA’s Office that she did not see the perpetrator’s face, contrary to her trial testimony where she claimed to have seen India’s face.
The DA’s Office never told Spellman or her trial lawyer that this witness told them a month after the crime that she could not see the shooter’s face. This witness recently told a defense investigator that she told prosecutors right before her testimony that she could not identify the female perpetrator, to which the prosecutors told her that the suspect was “sitting right there next to her lawyer.”
India consistently denied having any knowledge of the crimes that occurred that day. She consistently denied having participated in any crimes. Nevertheless, detectives engaged in extreme forms of physical and psychological abuse to elicit a false confession from India, who at the time had reading comprehension difficulties. When she asked to have the document she signed read back to her, detectives refused and told her that she could go home if she signed the document. Moments after she signed, India was booked.
The detective that secured India’s false confession (who was approximately 6’2” and 300 lbs. at the time he interrogated India) has since been arrested for employing the same tactics in other cases.
NEWS ARTICLES OF ARREST OF DETECTIVE
Other Victims Of That Detective
India Spellman’s PCRA petition:
India Spellman PCRA exhibits:
Superior Court opinion in the appeal of V.C., a minor:
Superior Court opinion in Commonwealth v. India Spellman:
June 2, 2022
Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center
1301 Filbert Street Philadelphia, PA 19107
PCRA Evidentiary Hearing
courtroom 1001 at 9:00 AM