Oral arguments scheduled for reinstatement of murder charges in Frye case

Kenneth Frye (Photo courtesy Philadelphia Police Department) punched Eric Pope outside Tabu in April 2022. Pope died a week later.

Oral arguments are scheduled for next month regarding the alleged murder of Eric Pope outside Tabu Nightclub in the Gayborhood. A three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court must decide whether to reinstate third-degree murder charges for Kenneth Frye, whom prosecutors say murdered Pope.

The District Attorney’s Office claims Frye acted with malice when sucker-punching Pope in April 2022 and that Frye demonstrated an extreme indifference to the value of human life when doing so, according to court papers.

Frye, 24, allegedly sucker-punched Pope outside Tabu Nightclub on April 16, 2022. At the time, Frye worked as a bouncer at Tabu. Pope was a beloved educator and member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Pope, 41, died a week later and Frye was charged with third-degree murder. In December 2022, a Philadelphia judge downgraded the charge to manslaughter but the DA’s Office is appealing that ruling in state Superior Court.

Oral arguments on the DA’s request for reinstatement of the third-degree murder charge against Frye will take place at 10 a.m. Nov. 2 on the 17th floor of 530 Walnut St. in Center City. The public is permitted to attend.

The Superior Court judges who will hear the case are Alice B. Dubow, Victor P. Stabile and Megan K. Sullivan. 

Regarding reinstatement of third-degree charges, the DA’s Office argues that Frye acted with malice and extreme indifference to human life when allegedly sucker-punching Pope. The DA’s Office notes that Pope was impaired and couldn’t brace himself prior to his head hitting the street, according to court papers.

The DA’s Office asserted seven key points supporting a third-degree murder conviction, including that Frye was much larger and stronger than Pope; that Pope didn’t provoke Frye; the forceful nature of Frye’s fatal blow to Pope; Frye’s awareness that Pope was defenseless; Frye’s punching of Pope in the street, where he would fall on a hard surface; Frye’s lack of alarm or concern when Pope was rendered unconscious; and Frye’s subsequent participation and/or acquiescence to a false explanation for why Pope was lying in the street, according to court papers.

Defense filings emphasize that Frye only hit Pope once. Also, there’s no evidence that Frye intended to seriously injure or kill Pope, according to defense filings.

Moreover, defense filings argue that Frye didn’t appear pleased with what he did and didn’t flee the scene of the crime, according to a surveillance video. Frye “did not flee the scene, leave or seem happy,” a defense filing states.

In a Sept. 28 email, defense attorney Zak T. Goldstein wrote: “[T]he law is clear that one punch is not murder. The Commonwealth did not identify a single case holding otherwise in their briefs to the Superior Court. We look forward to oral argument in the appeal and to resolving the new allegations in court.”

On Sept. 26, Frye allegedly burglarized a state-owned liquor store in West Philadelphia — along with another individual. The looting allegedly stemmed from a recent judicial ruling dismissing all charges against Mark Dial — a former police officer who killed a man during a traffic stop.

Frye remains free on $20,000 bail for charges relating to the alleged looting. But the DA’s Office is seeking to revoke his bail. A hearing on the DA’s bail-revocation request is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 26 in Room 504 of the Criminal Justice Center, 1315 Filbert St. in Center City.

Pope’s relatives are finding it difficult to move forward with life due to their son’s death, according to a statement released by the DA’s Office. “[Pope] was a wonderful man who, wherever he went, was doing good things for communities,” said his mother, Heather Pope, in the statement. “We miss him every day. His kind and beautiful love of life, of family and friends. How do we go on?”

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Tim Cwiek has been writing for PGN since the 1970s. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from West Chester State University. In 2013, he received a Sigma Delta Chi Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting on the Nizah Morris case. Cwiek was the first reporter for an LGBT media outlet to win an award from that national organization. He's also received awards from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the National Newspaper Association, and the Keystone Press.