Sentencing/Post-Conviction

Innocence Group Uncovers Perjured Testimony, Wins Ex-Gang Member's Release After 19 Years


Former gang member John Edward Smith had been in jail more than 15 years before a fledgling wrongful convictions group got wind of his story and checked it out.

Three years later, Smith, now 37, is a free man.

Smith has always maintained his innocence, but was convicted of murder in a drive-by shooting on Sept. 9, 1993, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Times reports that his claims fell on deaf ears until Innocence Matters took on his case and identified problems with the testimony of a lone witness who had been injured in the shooting, identifying Smith as the shooter.

The witness recanted and on Monday, after a yearlong review by the prosecutor’s office, a Los Angeles County judge vacated Smith’s conviction, finding that the 1995 conviction rested almost entirely on perjured testimony.

The Times reports that the then-teenage witness said he was pressured by detectives to make the ID.

The case was among the first for the newly created Innocence Matters, co-founded by former Los Angeles deputy public defender Deirdre O’Connor.

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