CA Judge Frees Wrongfully Convicted Gang Member After 19 Years

John Edward Smith, imprisoned for the past 19 years for a murder he did not commit, walked out of court a free man yesterday.

It was not DNA evidence that freed him, but perjured testimony at his trial. The sole eyewitness at his trial admitted lying.

Prosecutors told the judge they were convinced that the lone eyewitness to the 1993 shooting had lied at Smith’s trial, naming him as the gunman. Smith maintained he was at his grandmother’s house when the shooting occurred several blocks away.

The witness said said he was pressured by police to identify Smith as the shooter. [More...]

Mvuemba said he tried three times to tell authorities that he didn’t see enough to testify, but his pleas were ignored. “Mvuemba knew it was wrong to identify Mr. Smith as the man who shot him,” according to the defense motion. “But when he saw his deceased friend’s crying mother in the courtroom, he felt as if he had no other choice.”

Smith, who was 18 when he went to prison, had this to say:

“I’m not bitter at all, because that ain’t going to get me nowhere. I’ve got to move on.”

Mvuemba was 16 at the time of the shooting. According to the LA Times,

Mvuemba said he soon regretted it and reported his concerns to LAPD internal affairs twice. He even told the courtroom bailiff as he prepared to take the witness stand, he said. No one did anything, he said.

Smith had always declared his innocence. After he lost an earlier appeal which had depleted his grandmother's funds, his family cold-called lawyers trying to get someone to take the case. They were finally directed to a new organization, Innocence Matters, led by former public defender Deidre O'Connor.

O'Connor, a former Los Angeles deputy public defender, and a team of legal interns spent thousands of hours investigating his case. The most important thing they did was track down Mvuemba, according to court filings detailing their work. He was in prison for sexual assault and wanted to talk. Minutes into the first meeting, he blurted out, "I didn't see anything."

He said the police had come to his school two months after the shooting, handcuffed him and brought him to a police station, where they told him Smith had already been identified as the gunman. They wanted him to do the same.

Among those cheering in the courtroom when the judge announced her decision was singer Chris Brown, who was there for a hearing on an alleged probation violation in his own case. (It's been continued until November.)

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  • Display: Sort:
    And of course (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Chuck0 on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 11:51:12 AM EST
    no in law enforcement or the DAs office will be held accountable. Instead, one of their mouthpieces will stand up a microphone and declare how great the justice system is and how wonderful it worked in this case.

    Agreed. Also Mvuemba should be charged (1.00 / 1) (#2)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 12:04:21 PM EST
    with perjury.

    he was a juvenile at the time (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 12:20:21 PM EST
    and he is currently in prison on a sexual assault charge.

    It's not like the LAPD agreed to not (2.00 / 1) (#7)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 01:01:35 PM EST
    It's not like the LAPD agreed to not charge Mvuemba for some crime or something he committed in return for his perjured testimony.

    Now he claims he felt "pressured" by the LAPD and the sight of his friend's distraught mother, as though that's an acceptable excuse to lie on the stand.

    He was a juvenile when he committed the perjury, so charge him as a juvenile.


    They dragged him out of school... (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by unitron on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 09:15:00 AM EST
    ...in handcuffs, just for the "crime" of allegedly being a witness, then they told him what they wanted him to say, and you think he should have stood up to that?

    How do you know what "they" told him? (none / 0) (#14)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 11:37:45 AM EST
    AP link: rape. (none / 0) (#4)
    by oculus on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 12:23:42 PM EST
    That word hardly seems sufficient. (none / 0) (#6)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 01:00:47 PM EST
    From the Megan's Law database:
    Last Name: MVUEMBA

    First Name: LANDU

    Middle Name:
    Offense Code     261(a)(2)   
    Description     RAPE BY FORCE/FEAR/ETC   
    Offense Code     286(c)(2)   
    Description     SODOMY WITH FORCE, VIOLENCE, ETC.   
    Offense Code     288(c)(1)   
    Offense Code     288a(c)(2)   

    Oh yeah, and the young girl was developmentally disabled...


    Wow. Thanks. (none / 0) (#8)
    by oculus on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 01:13:29 PM EST
    No wonder it took the DA's office (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 01:15:11 PM EST
    2 years to decide whether to request dismissal in the interests of justice.  

    I'll grant you are consistent. (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 12:24:20 PM EST
    Meantime, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said the department will form a team to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of Smith's case.
    It will be interesting to see if anything comes of this.

    I think Diogenes (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by jondee on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 04:58:56 PM EST
    is a Monday Morning Sunday School teacher.

    Heh - aren't we all (none / 0) (#17)
    by Yman on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 06:33:05 PM EST
    ... on Monday morning, at least.

    Diogenes Theorem (1.00 / 2) (#10)
    by diogenes on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 06:13:09 PM EST
    From Huffington Post:

    "LOS ANGELES -- A former gang member imprisoned for 19 years for a murder he didn't commit has been exonerated and set free."

    He didn't deserve nineteen years for something he didn't do.  That said, former gang members often have committed crimes for which they were never arrested and for which they did no time.

    The victims of prosecutor mistaken identity or frame-up cases who do years in prison despite being innocent of the particular crime with which they were charged never seem to be Sunday School teachers.

    That is a really dangerous train of thought (5.00 / 4) (#11)
    by nyjets on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 06:58:41 PM EST
    Whether or not he is a gang banger is not relevant. If he was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit, 'Sunday school teachers' could also wind up in prison for a crime he did not commit.

    We should only send people to prison for crimes he or she committed.


    What's your point? (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Yman on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 07:36:42 PM EST
    You keep suggesting that people wrongfully convicted of crimes are not "Sunday School teachers".  What's your point?  They deserved to be wrongfully convicted and sentenced to jail for a crime they didn't commit because they did something else that was wrong?

    BTW - Are you a Sunday School teacher?