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Court releases 'actually innocent' man held 13 years on three strikes sentence

Posted on in Criminal Defense

In 2010, federal judge ordered the release of a man who was sentenced under California's three strikes law in 1999. State officials delayed the man's release as the man's appeal works its way through the courts. State officials claim that technical issues in filing the criminal appeal justify holding the innocent man in prison until the courts rule on the legal issues. However, a federal magistrate ordered that the man be released pending the outcome of the appeal.

The release follows the federal court ruling finding the man innocent of the alleged third strike crime. The judge ruled that the man had not received proper representation in his criminal defense in the 1999 trial.

Despite the federal ruling finding the man "actually innocent" of the alleged crime, the legal issues are not necessarily over, according to KTLA. The man had been sentenced under California's three strikes law after being convicted for allegedly carrying a concealed knife during a 1998 bar fight in Northridge, California.

The man had a prior record, which included two prior burglary convictions. When he went to trial on the concealed weapon offense, his attorney (who repoertedly was later disbarred) did not call any witnesses in presenting his criminal defense.

The man maintained that he was innocent of the charges, and after time passed, the Innocence Project looked into the man's cause. As it turns out, an investigation uncovered several witnesses who say that the man never had a knife at all. Among the witnesses who is a former police chief. The witnesses say that someone else did have a knife, and the witnesses say that other person had discarded the weapon before police arrived.

Nonetheless, after 13 years in prison on a three strikes sentence of 27 years to life, the man is currently free pending the outcome of the appeal. He still could face a new trial id prosecutors opt to pursue the case after the appellate issues are resolved.


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