John Edward Smith was released from Los Angeles County jail after spending 19 years behinds bars for a murder he did not commit.
“I had good days and bad days, I stayed hopeful and that’s all I could do,” he said while outside the downtown jail. “I’m not bitter at all, because that ain’t going to get me nowhere. I’ve got to move on.”
Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg vacated Smith’s conviction for murder and attempted murder in a gang-related drive-by shooting. Prosecutors believed that the one witness to the shooting that took place in 1993 had lied about Smith being the gunman. Smith had stated that he was at his grandmother’s home when the shootings took place several blocks away.
Smith was 18 when he was arrested and was identified at the shooter by the only eyewitness who had been shot and survived. The witness said the police pressured him to identify Smith. The witness, Landu Mvuemba, confessed to lying after meeting with Innocence Matter representatives in 2010 as the group worked to exonerate Smith. He said the police told him they knew who did it and that other witnesses identified Smith as the shooter.
Judge Schnegg said she held numerous meetings with the defense and prosecution in the year since the recanting was disclosed. The judge said they did not have sufficient information to declare Smith factually innocent, but she vacated his convictions for murder and attempted murder, and ordered him released.
According to Smith’s Lawyer Deirdre O’Connor, Smith’s trial was hurt by ineffective assistance of attorneys who failed to investigate the case properly at trial and on appeal.
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