Santa Clara, CA – For more than two decades, Maurice Caldwell has fought to prove his innocence after he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life behind bars.
On Thursday, a San Francisco Superior Court judge granted his request and ordered the conviction and sentence set aside.
The decision was a victory for not only Caldwell, but for the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University, which unearthed new evidence in the case, including a statement from another man that he was the real killer.
The case is yet another example of how eyewitness identification can go wrong and lead to the conviction of the innocent.
Caldwell was convicted based on the testimony of a single eyewitness, who was later honored for her heroism and given San Francisco’s highest civilian honor—a medal of merit. The eyewitness originally told police that the shooters did not live in the area and that she did not know their names or nicknames. During that interview police brought Caldwell, who had been the witness’ neighbor, to her door. She did not identify him at the time, but two weeks later picked him out of a photo lineup identifying him by his nickname “Twone.”
The new evidence shows her testimony was wrong and as a result Caldwell has spent 21 years locked up for a crime he did not commit.
On December 16, Judge Charles Haines ruled that Caldwell’s trial attorney was ineffective for failing to adequately investigate this case, because the post-conviction investigation resulted in a confession from one of the true perpetrators. Further, NCIP interviewed and obtained declarations from two witnesses who saw the murder and identified the shooters as people other than Caldwell. All three say that Mr. Caldwell was not involved in any way.
The judge ordered the San Francisco District Attorney’s office to respond by Monday on whether they would seek to retry Caldwell, appeal his order, or dismiss the charges against Mr. Caldwell, which will result in his release.
“All the things I dreamed about when I was young, I can now bring to life,” said Maurice Caldwell. “I can’t find a way to say what this means to me and what the Project means to me.”
“I am so glad the judge did the right thing and reversed Maurice’s conviction,” said NCIP attorney Paige Kaneb, who has worked the case since January of 2008. “Maurice is not only innocent, but a wonderful client and an appreciative person who has kept his faith throughout this whole ordeal.”
About the Northern California Innocence Project
The Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) at Santa Clara University School of Law operates as a pro bono legal clinical program, where law students, clinical fellows, attorneys, pro bono counsel, and volunteers work to identify and provide legal representation to wrongfully convicted prisoners.
NCIP educates future attorneys, exonerates the innocent, and is dedicated to raising public awareness about the prevalence and causes of wrongful conviction. We promote substantive legislative and policy reform through data-driven research and policy recommendations aimed at ensuring the integrity of our justice system. For more information, see ncip.scu.edu.
About Santa Clara University School of Law
Santa Clara University School of Law, founded in 1911 on the site of California’s oldest operating higher-education institution, is dedicated to educating lawyers who lead with a commitment to excellence, ethics, and social justice. One of the nation’s most diverse law schools, Santa Clara Law offers its 975 students an academically rigorous program, including graduate degrees in international law and intellectual property law; combined J.D./MBA degree; and certificates in intellectual property law, international law, and public interest and social justice law. Santa Clara Law is located in the world-class business center of Silicon Valley, and is distinguished nationally for our top-ranked program in intellectual property. For more information, see law.scu.edu.