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.)
|< Pandemonium at the NFL | Probation is No Walk in the Park: Another Example >|