Imagine this: You’ve been in prison for 32 years for a murder you know you didn’t commit, and then one day a judge rules that you be released from custody – immediately! This is the conversation you’ve waited so long for.
A Los Angeles Superior Court has granted a request to vacate Andrew Wilson’s murder conviction, and Andrew has been released from custody after serving 32 long years for a murder he’s always said he didn’t commit. Arguing on his behalf was the Loyola Law School’s Project For The Innocent.
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After ordering that Wilson be released from prison as soon as possible, Superior Court Judge Laura F. Priver said, “I think this is justice.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that for 30 years Andrew Wilson’s mother, Margie Davis, wrote letters to anyone and everyone who might have the power to right the terrible wrong against her son, and her message was always the same.
“My son, Andrew Wilson, was wrongfully convicted of murder. Please help.”
But she wasn’t surprised when help didn’t come. Now, aged 96-years-old, Margie says she learned the hard way that living in a country built on the idea of justice for all doesn’t always lead to justice for everyone. Margie Davis was shocked, yet ecstatic, on Wednesday afternoon when her son’s lawyer called to say that a Los Angeles County judge had just thrown out his murder conviction.
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Andrew Wilson was convicted of the 1984 robbery and murder of Christopher Hanson, a 21-year-old man who suffered from a disorder that prevented his blood from clotting.
Laurie Levenson is from the Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent.
“This case is like something you would see on TV. It has everything from bad witness identification, not turning over impeachment evidence, having a theory and marching toward it, officers putting a full-court press on witnesses.”
When Wilson, now 62-years-old, was ushered by deputies into the courtroom in handcuffs, he fist-bumped one of his attorneys and smiled at the law students seated in the audience.
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The defense contends that Wilson did not commit the crime, and the judge is expected to hold a hearing on May 3, to start the process of determining whether Wilson is factually innocent — a designation he requires to receive compensation from the State.
At the end of the hearing, Superior Court Judge Priver smiled as she turned to the defendant’s table, and uttered the words Andrew Wilson had longed to hear.
“You ready for the words, Mr. Wilson?” she asked.
“You’re discharged,” she told him.
“Thank you,” he said, softly. “Thank you.”
It’s been alleged that Laura Aalto, the trial prosecutor, withheld several pieces of key evidence from the defense; there was also evidence that Saladena Bishop, who was the sole eyewitness to the crime, was not credible. In fact, law enforcement determined that Bishop was a liar, because she filed a false police report accusing another man of kidnap and attempted rape; however, that information was never turned over to the defense.
When Margie Davis was reached by phone at home she said she couldn’t wait to make new memories, and perhaps she felt vindicated for all those unanswered letters.
“I sent it to the L.A. Times, they ignored it. I sent it to the governor, he ignored it. I sent to the Justice Department. I just didn’t have any help.”
Even though she never doubted Andrew for a moment, Davis also never expected this day would come.
“I knew that he was innocent all along. It’s no news to me. He is an honest person; I knew he wouldn’t lie.”
While Bishop couldn’t be reached for comment, Aalto said that although she can’t remember all the details of the case, she knows she wouldn’t have withheld information. She did say, though, that she remembers thinking at the time that it was worth putting before a jury, even though the case was weak.
“I don’t know if he was guilty or not. But I thought it was a case worth trying.”
Once being released, Andrew Wilson first visited his 90-year-old mother in Saint Louis. According to the International Business Times, the District Attorney’s office has conceded that cumulative errors were made in Andrew Wilson’s case.
— Margaret Carrero (@KNXmargaret) March 16, 2017
Deputy District Attorney Erica Jerez said that these “cumulative errors” deprived Andrew Wilson of his constitutional right to a fair trial; however, Jerez has written a letter to the judge with the following statement.
“We wish to make it explicitly clear that while we believe the record demonstrates Mr. Wilson was denied a fundamentally fair trial, we do not believe Mr Wilson is factually innocent.”
This is an important distinction, and whether Andrew Wilson is factually innocent or was simply tried incorrectly is very significant because this will determine if he is entitled to State compensation.
According to the defense, Wilson is innocent of the crimes he was convicted of, and on May 3, a hearing will begin to establish if he is factually innocent. The lead attorney in Andrew Wilson’s case, Paula Mitchell, said she has evidence that information was suppressed and that witnesses were encouraged to see Andrew as the guilty party.
[Featured Image by Nick Ut/AP Images]