Over the last year, we have kept you updated on NCIP exoneree Maurice Caldwell’s quest for compensation for the more than 20 years he spent wrongfully incarcerated.
Maurice was wrongfully convicted of murder in San Francisco in 1991, based primarily on the testimony of the prosecution’s chief witness, Mary Cobbs, who identified Caldwell as the shooter. Following his exoneration in 2011, Maurice filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of San Francisco and the San Francisco Police Department for their fabrication of evidence and their exchanges with Cobbs, who died while he was in prison.
In the lawsuit, Maurice contends that following the shooting, former San Francisco Police Sergeant Kitt Crenshaw, who had a history of run-ins with Maurice, brought him to Cobbs’ door and identified him to her by name. Though Cobbs previously told police she did not know the shooter’s name, she identified Maurice as the shooter two weeks later from a police lineup, and was able to identify him by name.
Five months prior to the murder, Caldwell filed a complaint about Crenshaw with the city commission, and Crenshaw admitted to investigators that he had told Caldwell he would catch him with a gun and said to him, “I’m going to kill you.” In addition, the lawsuit states that Crenshaw fabricated evidence and falsely stated in his police report that Maurice admitted being present at the shooting which caused the homicide inspectors to focus on him as their sole suspect even though Cobbs, who had lived next-door to Caldwell, initially said the shooters were not from the neighborhood.
In 2016, Maurice’s civil rights suit was denied on summary judgement.
Maurice appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, who heard oral argument on the matter on October 13, 2017. Seven months later, on May 11, 2018, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the summary judgement against Maurice, giving his civil rights lawsuit against former San Francisco Police Sergeant Kitt Crenshaw the green light to move forward.
Since winning his freedom 7 years ago, Maurice has not received a cent for his wrongful incarceration. During that time, he has given back to the community: testifying in the California state legislature, speaking with student and community groups, and being a loving father to his children.
In addition to Maurice’s civil rights lawsuit, his attorneys from Gross Belsky LLP, are representing Maurice in two other matters. The first is Maurice’s compensation claim before the California Victim’s Compensation Board (CalVCB). The second is Maurice’s appeal of the Superior Court’s denial of his motion for a finding of factual innocence. Should his appeal in that case be granted, the CalVCB would be required by law to recommend compensation for Maurice. On October 19, 2017, the CalVCB opted to delay their vote on whether Maurice should be compensated by the state of California, until the appeals court makes a decision on the Superior Court’s denial of Maurice’s motion for a finding of factual innocence.
We will continue to keep you updated as we learn more about Maurice’s case.