Obie Anthony III
Wrongfully incarcerated for 17 years
Obie Anthony III was convicted of murder and attempted robbery in 1995, despite the lack of physical evidence linking him to the crime. The prosecution relied on the testimony of John Jones, a convicted killer and pimp who ran a house of prostitution near the crime scene, to convict Mr. Anthony and his co-defendant Reggie Cole. Mr. Anthony was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
After receiving Mr. Anthony’s request for help in 2008, NCIP attorneys and students, along with Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent and Federal Public Defender Investigator Deborah Crawford, conducted an extensive re-investigation of the case. They discovered that John Jones had lied on the witness stand when he claimed he was not being rewarded for his testimony, when he denied firing a gun during the crime, and when he denied running a house of prostitution. In addition, prosecutors falsely denied that they had given Mr. Jones a deal for his cooperation and failed to correct his lies at trial. Mr. Jones admitted in 2009 that he never actually saw the perpetrators well enough to identify them. Mr. Anthony’s team also located surviving victim Luis Jimenez, who revealed that the actual perpetrators were 30 to 40 years old. Mr. Anthony was 19 at the time.
On September 30, 2011, after an 11-day evidentiary hearing earlier in the month, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kelvin Filer vacated Mr. Anthony’s convictions based on several constitutional errors including prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel and the false testimony of Mr. Jones. Mr. Anthony spent 17 years in prison before being released on October 4, 2011.
Wrongfully incarcerated for nearly four years
Thirteen years later, name and conviction record finally cleared
In 1995, Mashelle Bullington was wrongfully convicted of using a firearm in the commission of an auto burglary (called a personal use gun enhancement). She was pulled from her life and two small children and imprisoned for nearly four years. Ms. Bullington completed her prison term in 1998. In the years since, she has reunited with her children and built a successful career as a project manager for a Silicon Valley technology support company. Yet, despite her success, she continued to be plagued by the horror of that experience and the stigma of a violent felony conviction on her record.
Through the work of Deputy District Attorney David Angel of the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, and District Attorney Investigator David Hendrickson, it was uncovered that the victim in the case had either been seriously mistaken or had outright lied about the firearm. On November 20, 2008, NCIP attorney Kathryn (Katie) Ross, in collaboration with the Santa Clara County Office of the District Attorney, petitioned to have Ms. Bullington's gun enhancement vacated based on the newly discovered evidence. Judge Douglas Southard of the Santa Clara County Superior Court granted the petition, vacated the gun enhancement, and reduced the case to a misdemeanor. A decade after she was released from prison for a crime she did not commit, Ms. Bullington's name was finally cleared.
NCIP wishes to salute the Santa Clara County Office of the District Attorney, particularly David Angel and David Hendrickson, for all of their work on Ms. Bullington's case.
Wrongfully incarcerated for 20 years
On June 30, 1991, Maurice Caldwell was convicted of second-degree murder for the fatal shooting of Judy Acosta in the Alemany Public Housing Project in San Francisco.
Mary Cobbs, a resident of the Projects, told police two weeks after the crime that she was looking out her apartment window and saw the shooting, and that the shooters did not live in the area. She also said that she did not know know their names or nicknames. Mr. Caldwell, 22, was Ms. Cobbs’ next door neighbor. While interviewing Ms. Cobbs about the murder, another officer brought Mr. Caldwell to her door and said he needed the keys to place Mr. Caldwell in the police car. Ms. Cobbs did not say that Mr. Caldwell was the shooter at that time. However, two weeks later, she picked Mr. Caldwell out of a photographic lineup as a shooter, and identified him by his nickname. Over the next few months, police attempted to gather more evidence against Mr. Caldwell, but instead, only heard evidence of his innocence, including witness statements identifying someone else as the murderer. Still, based solely on Ms. Cobbs’ identification, police arrested Mr. Caldwell in late September and he was charged with the murder.
There was no physical evidence linking Mr. Caldwell to the crime yet he was still convicted based on his neighbor’s false testimony. Mr. Caldwell was sentenced to life behind bars. In prison, Mr. Caldwell contacted the Northern California Innocence Project for help. NCIP located two witnesses who actually saw the murder and said Mr. Caldwell was not involved in any way, and located the real killer, who confessed that he committed the murder. That man is serving a life sentence in a Nevada prison for a subsequent murder, which could have been avoided had the San Francisco police pursued him as a suspect when witnesses informed them that he was the real shooter.
On March 28, 2011, after more than 20 years in prison, Mr. Caldwell was released from San Francisco County Jail after San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charles Haines ordered him freed. Haines set aside Mr. Caldwell’s conviction December 2010, after NCIP lawyers demonstrated evidence of actual innocence and that Mr. Caldwell’s defense attorney at trial was incompetent. San Francisco County prosecutors subsequently decided to dismiss the charges against Mr. Caldwell.
Francisco (Franky) Carrillo, Jr.
Wrongfully incarcerated for nearly 20 years
On January 18, 1991, six teenage boys were standing on a curb talking in front of a house in the Los Angeles suburb of Lynwood. Donald Sarpy, 41, the father of one of the boys, stepped onto the driveway to call his son inside when a car drove by and two shots were fired, killing Sarpy.
Five of the boys picked Mr. Carrillo out of a series of police photographs because police suggested to the first boy shown photographs that Mr. Carrillo was the shooter. That boy then told his friends who to choose. All the boys testified that Mr. Carrillo was the shooter, and Mr. Carrillo was convicted in 1992.
On March 14, 2011, The Los Angeles County Superior Court reversed Francisco “Franky” Carrillo Jr.’s 1992 conviction for the murder of Donald Sarpy, and ordered Mr. Carrillo’s release from over two decades of imprisonment. The conviction was overturned after the six eyewitnesses all admitted that they did not really see anything, and were influenced to make their identifications of Mr. Carrillo. In addition, two other men have confessed to the shooting and said that Mr. Carrillo was not involved in the shooting.
Mr. Carrillo’s legal team consisted of attorney Ellen Eggers; attorneys Alison Tucher, George Harris and Erika Drous from the law firm of Morrison and Foerster; Linda Starr and Paige Kaneb from NCIP, and investigators Pam Siller and Jesus Castillo.
Wrongfully incarcerated for 12 years
On March 9, 1995, Foley and his co-defendant were charged with burglary with an arming allegation. During the trial the actual perpetrator testified that he was responsible for the crime and continued to take the blame for years. However, the jury chose not to believe him. After re-investigating Mr. Foley’s case, the Santa Clara County District Attorney recommended Mr. Foley’s sentence be recalled and later filed a Motion to Dismiss Priors. NCIP filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus seeking reversal of Mr. Foley’s burglary conviction. The court reversed Mr. Foley’s burglary conviction as NCIP had requested, struck all but one prior, and released Mr. Foley on his own recognizance. With the assistance of the law firm of Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin, NCIP is currently seeking compensation for Mr. Foley under Penal Code section 4900 et seq., which provides wrongfully convicted individuals $100 per day for each day of wrongful imprisonment.
Wrongfully incarcerated for over 11 years
Albert Johnson was arrested in 1992 for two rapes. From the moment of his arrest, Johnson maintained his innocence and requested DNA testing to prove it. Even though it was available and police had obtained rape kits, neither the prosecution nor Mr. Johnson’s attorney sought DNA testing. Finally in 2001, in response to Mr. Johnson’s motion under the new post-conviction DNA testing law, the court ordered testing. Those tests revealed that Mr. Johnson could not have been the perpetrator of one of the rapes, and the court reversed that conviction. A search of the DNA database identified that actual rapist, but he remains free because the statute of limitations has run so he can no longer be prosecuted.
Four days after Mr. Johnson’s release from prison, police re-arrested him, claiming he had to serve time for a one-year prison infraction for being caught with a knife in his prison cell. NCIP swiftly obtained Mr. Johnson’s exoneration for that conviction where prison documents revealed that Mr. Johnson had been wrongly held responsible because the weapon that was planted by a white supremacist gang.
Though Mr. Johnson has been exonerated of two crimes, he is precluded from proving his innocence in the other rape because prosecutors claim that the evidence has been destroyed.
Wrongfully incarcerated for nearly six years
Armando Ortiz, age 16 at the time of his arrest for a double murder, was represented by a juvenile court attorney who discovered nine alibi witnesses who placed him at a party at the time of the murders. When Mr. Ortiz’s case was transferred to adult court, Mr. Ortiz was appointed a new attorney, Ernest Kinney, who ignored the overwhelming alibi evidence and put on virtually no defense. Though no physical evidence tied Mr. Ortiz to the murder scene and the circumstantial evidence was weak, a jury convicted Mr. Ortiz of the murders as well as two related robberies and an unrelated assault, and he was sentenced to two terms of life in prison. Appellate attorneys Cliff Gardner and Lazuli Whit, who had worked extensively on Mr. Ortiz’s behalf, referred his case to NCIP. NCIP attorneys and students convinced a judge to overturn his murder and robbery convictions based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The Innocence Project continues to pursue relief for Mr. Ortiz on the assault charge so that one day Mr. Ortiz may be free. The two murderers of the victims in this case remain unidentified.
Wrongfully incarcerated for almost six years
Ron Reno was convicted of gun possession in 1997. When police arrested him he insisted that he knew nothing about the gun and that police should look for a man named Marsh. Mr. Reno maintained that Marsh had hidden the gun in a boot box. Neither police nor Mr. Reno’s own attorney made any effort to find Marsh. Mr. Reno was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life under California’s Three Strikes law. Several years into his sentence he encountered Mr. Marsh in prison, who freely admitted that the gun was his. Mr. Marsh felt it grossly unfair that Reno should be serving a life sentence for something he didn’t do, so he provided a declaration and met with the district attorney, reiterating that he had hidden the gun in the boot box without Mr. Reno’s knowledge. NCIP filed a writ of habeas corpus arguing that this new evidence proved Mr. Reno’s innocence and subsequently negotiated his release with the DA’s office.
Wrongfully incarcerated for over five years
In 2002 Jeffrey Rodriguez was arrested for robbing an employee of Kragen’s Auto Supply in the loading dock of the store. Mr. Rodriguez’s first jury trial hung 11-1 in favor of acquittal; on retrial, the victim’s identification changed drastically and the prosecution used questionable physical evidence tied with expert testimony to place Mr. Rodriguez at the scene of the crime. The jury convicted him, and he was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. On appeal, Mr. Rodriguez’s conviction was overturned. NCIP student Curtis Macon assisted Santa Clara County Deputy Public Defender Andy Gutierrez in discovering new evidence that led to the dismissal of all charges against Mr. Rodriguez prior to his third trial. After serving over five years in prison for the crime, Mr. Rodriguez was released in 2007. The real perpetrator of the crime has yet to be identified. As in Mr. Foley’s case, NCIP is seeking compensation from the State for Mr. Rodriguez’s wrongful incarceration.
Wrongfully incarcerated for nearly 10 years
In 1994, Peter Rose was arrested for the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl who had been badgered by police to name someone as her assailant. She told law enforcement officers she could not identify the perpetrator. Following a coercive three-hour interrogation, the girl tentatively identified Mr. Rose as her rapist. When NCIP’s now-defunct Golden Gate University office began working on Mr. Rose’s case, officials maintained that all evidence had been destroyed. Students found one remaining piece of evidence at the lab that had originally conducted blood typing on the evidence and filed a motion for DNA testing. The DNA testing conclusively demonstrated that Mr. Rose was not the rapist. Mr. Rose’s conviction was reversed and he was released from prison. With the help of the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, Mr. Rose received over $300,000 after filing a compensation claim with the State Board of Control for his wrongful conviction. The real perpetrator of the rape has still not been identified.
Wrongfully incarcerated for nearly 20 years
John Stoll’s case grew out of the 1980s child molestation hysteria that led to the convictions of scores of innocent people in Bakersfield, California, and other communities throughout the country. His 1985 conviction was based solely on the testimony of children who had been subjected to coercive interviewing techniques by Kern County social workers, sheriff’s officers, and other county authorities. Officials pressured six young children into falsely testifying they were sexually abused by Mr. Stoll and three other adults. No physical evidence corroborated their testimony. A jury convicted Mr. Stoll of 17 counts of child molestation, and the court sentenced him to 40 years in prison.
In 2002, NCIP and co-counsel California Innocence Project filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Mr. Stoll. Following full briefing, the Kern County Superior Court ordered an evidentiary hearing be held. During the hearing five of six former child witnesses recanted their testimony. The court found that Kern County had obtained Mr. Stoll’s convictions in violation of his constitutional right to due process because they were based on unreliable testimony procured by county employees’ improper interviewing techniques. This district attorney’s office admitted it could not retry him and dropped all charges. Subsequently, NCIP filed a compensation claim on behalf of Mr. Stoll, and the State of California awarded him over $700,000 for his wrongful conviction. The two California Innocence Projects, along with several civil rights attorneys, have filed a federal civil rights suit against Kern County and the others responsible for imprisoning Mr. Stoll. That suit is now pending.