A man who spent 17 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit has won an $8 million lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles.
Obie Anthony, along with his friend, Reggie Cole, was convicted of the 1994 murder of Felipe Gonzales Angeles during a robbery attempt outside a South Los Angeles brothel, according to Yahoo News.
Anthony, who has maintained his innocence all along, was convicted of the killing despite a lack of physical evidence connecting him to the crime.
The night of the shooting, Angeles had been to the door of the brothel asking for a woman named Melinda. When he was sent away, he was met by three men demanding money on the way back to his car. Shots were heard, and Angeles and both his friends were hit. His friends survived, but Angeles did not.
An anonymous tip led detectives to Anthony and Cole, who were being held at the time on carjacking charges.
During the trial, the pimp who ran the brothel – John Jones – testified that he recognized Anthony and Cole as the robbers and that they had also shot at him as he watched the robbery through a window.
Another witness, one of Angeles friends who was shot during the robbery, also identified the two men, even though he had been unable to pick them out during photo and live lineups.
There was no physical evidence connecting the two to the shooting, but they were convicted on eyewitness testimony alone.
“When the gavel went down it was just — this sinking feeling,” Anthony said. “But it was immediately bolstered up by ‘OK, how am I going to prove that they’re lying, that they’re setting me up?’ ”
Defense attorneys later showed that the key witness, Jones, had lied, and that prosecutors had not revealed an agreement with him to lighten his sentence in exchange for his testimony at the two men’s trials.
The L.A. Times reports that detectives at the scene of the murder also disregarded evidence, giving six bullet shells found at the scene to a reporter as “souvenirs” instead of bagging them and having them tested.
Current ballistics tests conducted by the men’s defense attorneys have revealed that the spent rounds came from the gun used to kill Angeles, and that they could have identified the killer at the time, had they been tested then.
A Los Angeles County judge overturned the murder convictions in 2009, and in 2011, Anthony was found factually innocent and released after 17 years in prison.
Anthony’s lawsuit and other court documents show several mistakes and suspected mishandling of the investigation against him and Cole, including withheld evidence, perjured testimony, and ignoring of leads that could have revealed the real killer. The city, although agreeing to award $8 million to Anthony, has admitted no wrongdoing in the case, and attorneys argued that detectives properly conducted the investigation.
Cole has a similar lawsuit pending.
Anthony now lives a quiet life in rural San Bernardino County, and has reconnected with his childhood crush, to whom he is now happily married. But he will never forget the time he spend in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and keeps evidence, such as receipts, to prove his location at all times.
“The money will never make up for it,” he said.
The Inquisitr also reported on this Ohio man who was recently awarded $1 million after spending 39 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of murder.
[Image via Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images]