John Fetterman Brings Convicted Murderer to State of the Union

LEMONT FURNACE, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 10: Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman campaigns for
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Freshman Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) brought a convicted murderer to the State of the Union address on Tuesday. The convict received a commuted sentence thanks in large part to Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons, which Fetterman used to oversee.

Dennis Horton was found guilty of second-degree murder, along with his brother Lee Horton, stemming from a 1993 fatal shooting during a Philadelphia robbery, as Breitbart News reported.  They both maintained their innocence throughout their prison terms, which lasted nearly three decades before they were granted clemency by then-Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) in 2021 at the recommendation of the state’s five-person Board of Pardons, chaired by then-Lt. Gov. Fetterman.

Under his tenure, recommendations for life sentence commutations and clemency to Wolf skyrocketed, sending the governor at least 46 recommendations, as the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Julia Terruso reported last year.

“That’s compared with just six in Wolf’s first term, none under former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s one term, and only five during former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell’s eight years in office,” Terruso wrote in May.

Terruso was the first to report Monday that Fetterman was bringing Horton to the State of the Union. In a statement, which he later tweeted, Fetterman told the outlet:

The incarceration of Dennis and Lee for a crime they did not commit is a stark reminder of the work we need to do to make our criminal justice system more equitable and fair. I fought for their commutations and countless others as chair of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, and as your U.S. Senator I will continue to push for second chances for those who deserve them. We should not be a society about vengeance, we should be a society about redemption.

A 2021 appeal filing in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania cited the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County summary of “the facts underlying [Dennis] Horton’s convictions.” It reads as follows:

The evidence adduced at trial established that on May 31, 1993, Horton, his brother Lee Horton (“Lee”), and a co-conspirator Robert Leaf (“Leaf”) robbed Filito’s Bar located at 5th Street and Hunting Park Avenue. During the course of the robbery, [Horton], who was carrying a rifle, shot Samuel Alemo multiple times. Alemo later died from his gunshot wounds. [Horton] also shot Luz Archella and her daughter Luz Martinez, injuring both. Leaf brandished what appeared to be a black pistol while Lee took money from bar patrons. After leaving the bar, the three men fled in a blue automobile. A passerby was able to supply police with a description of the vehicle and a partial license plate number. A radio call was sent out, which included a description of the three assailants, their vehicle, and the last four digits of the license plate. A police officer observed the vehicle a short time later only a mile from the crime scene and placed [Horton] and his companions under arrest. Police recovered a .22 caliber semiautomatic rifle from the backseat of the car as well as a black pellet gun under the front passenger seat. Ballistics testing identified the rifle as the same weapon used during the robbery at Filito’s. [Horton], Lee, and Leaf, who was wearing an orange hooded sweatshirt at the time of his arrest, were taken to the hospital where Martinez and her daughter, as well as another bar patron Miguel DeJesus, identified them as the robbers.

They asserted that they picked up Leaf moments before police initiated the traffic stop, as the Inquirer noted in September 2020. Leaf was found in the backseat where, according to the summary, the .22 caliber rifle was.

The Superior Court ultimately upheld the lower court’s ruling that dismissed Horton’s appeal.

By a vote of 4-0, the Board of Pardons recommended clemency for the Hortons in December 2020, which Wolf later granted. In February 2021, the former governor announced commuted sentences for the pair and 11 other convicted murderers, all of whom received clemency recommendations from Fetterman’s Board of Pardons.

“These 13 individuals have served time for their crimes and deserve now a second chance,” Wolf said. “They now have a chance to begin a life outside of prison that I hope is fulfilling for each of them.”

“Each of these Pennsylvanians is fully deserving of the chance to return to their families and start a new life,” said Fetterman in the release. Federal records show that the brothers began receiving payments for their work on the Fetterman campaign months later.


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