CRIMINAL APPEAL FREES MAN AFTER 19 YEARS IN PRISON
The Los Angeles times reports that a post conviction criminal appeal has freed a man after 19 years in prison on a murder charge. During his years in prison John Edwards Smith maintained his innocence in connection with a drive-by shooting. Smith insisted that he was miles away at the time of the shooting at his grandmother’s home.
Smith was assisted in his post conviction criminal appeal by Innocence Matters, who identified problems with the testimony from the lone witness who identified the perpetrator. A single witness later recanted his testimony. The judge in the case commented that she was setting aside the 1995 conviction because it was based on perjured testimony.
At his trial the jury believed the single eyewitness over two defense witnesses who testified that Smith was at his grandmother’s house at the time of the shooting. The case demonstrates the serious flaws in inherent unreliability of eyewitness testimony. In this case the unreliability came into play because the eyewitness was pressured by authorities into saying that Smith was the gunman.
After accepting Smith’s case, members of Innocence Matters spent thousands of hours reviewing the case and investigating the facts for the post conviction criminal appeal. Ultimately, they tracked down the witness, finding him in prison for an unrelated criminal case. Within minutes of starting the interview, the witness told the interviewers that he did not see anything. The witness said that police had come to his school several months after the shooting. The police handcuffed him and took him to a police station. They told him Smith had already been identified as the gunman and they wanted him to confirm that fact. The witness claimed that he was pressured by the police to go along with the identification.
William K. Bradford – Bradford Ladner, LLP