Wrongfully convicted Venice man released after 20 years

Two recent California news items substantiate the only reason I’m opposed to the death penalty: all too often, the innocent are wrongfully convicted.

Earlier this month, a 29 year old San Jose man who’d already served five years of a potential life sentence was released, and all charges dropped, after the local D.A. had growing doubts over the original conviction. (source: San Jose Mercury News)

And a little more than a week ago, a 39 year old Venice man was released after 20 years in prison for a murder a Los Angeles Superior Court judged determined he was wrongfully convicted for. Timothy Atkins, who was a teenager at the time, was fingered along with a friend in a 1985 botched carjacking where a flower shop owner was killed with a single blast from a shotgun.

The woman who testified them originally claimed that she overheard Atkins and his friend, Ricky Evans, brag about the murder. In recent years, however, the same woman has been recanting her original testimony.

While Atkins wasn’t given the death penalty, Evans, who was convicted alongside him “was beaten to death in jail before the case could come to trial”.

The judge, Michael A. Tynan, also cited additional evidence originally brought to trial as being suspect, and chided police for not following up with the woman who had recanted her testimony.

The failure to find and produce her for the trial “appears to be an error of constitutional magnitude,” Tynan wrote.

According to the LA Times, the next injustice is that state compensation for his wrongful conviction is only $100 per day of imprisonment, totalling at close to $800,000. (sources: LA Times)

.. h/t Death Penalty Focus