Two California Inmates Who Were Wrongfully Convicted Have Been Exonerated

On Thursday, a California court overturned the attempted m*rder convictions of two men who had been in prison since 2004 for an unrelated shooting. The state must pay them around $900,000 (or $140 per day) according to a new law.

After having their convictions overturned by a state appeals court panel in October, Dupree Glass and Juan Rayford finally had their second trial in December. They will be released in 2020. Chad Brandon McZeal, a gang member serving a life sentence for m*rder in a separate case, reportedly made a startling confession during the proceedings.

Glass and Rayford embraced each other and their lawyers after the judge’s decision. The men were met with cheers from relatives and friends outside the courthouse. Rayford, holding his newborn daughter, exclaimed that it felt “amazing” to have their names cleared and their reputations restored.

2 Men Wrongly Convicted in California
2 Men Wrongly Convicted in California

“I thought about this day for so long. I thought about it when I was locked up for 17 years. I thought about it for my last two years being free. I waited for this day because, you know, I knew I was innocent of every crime they said I committed,” he said.

It was the first case presented under a new statute that compensates defendants whose cases are dismissed and permits them to provide evidence of their innocence, according to defense attorneys. Glass and Rayford were detained following a shooting during an adolescent brawl in Lancaster, north of Los Angeles. Both suspects were 17 years old at the time.

Two people were shot, but their wounds were not life-threatening, according to the court documents. Both of the accused were found guilty on eleven charges of attempted m*rder and given eleven life sentences, all to run concurrently. “That trial never should have been brought in the first place,” defense attorney Annee Della Donna told The Associated Press.

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“There was no evidence tying them to the shooting. Zero.” According to her, the new law, which will become effective in 2020, will allow the defense to present “preponderance of evidence” demonstrating their client’s innocence. “We proved their innocence beyond a shadow of a doubt,” Della Donna proclaimed.

Only two witnesses testified against Glass and Rayford, and both eventually changed their stories. After five years, defense investigators identified several more people who stated, “Oh no, they weren’t the shooters, they never had a gun,” as Della Donna put it.

The juveniles always insisted they had nothing to do with the incident; they had no criminal records. The University of California, Irvine School of Law’s Innocence Rights initiative took up their cause. Glass, age 36, and Rayford, age 37, both currently hold positions as Walmart drivers.

Now released from prison, Rayford is reunited with his high school girlfriend. Both dads recently welcomed daughters into the world. “I’m not big for words. But today is a wonderful day. For 20 years we’ve been living this nightmare. It’s finally over. We can go on with our lives,” Glass said Thursday outside the courthouse.

Judge H. Clay Jacke of the Los Angeles County Superior Court issued “a long, detailed ruling exonerating them for any and all crimes” linked to the incident, according to defense attorney Eric Dubin. “Today the judge righted a wrong,” Dubin said.

“In my over 30 years of trying cases, I’ve never experienced such a magical moment where I’m able to see justice come to light so vividly.” According to Dubin, each guy is entitled to approximately $900,000 in compensation under the new statute, and he anticipates that the state Victims Compensation Board will grant these requests.

In addition, he added, defense lawyers want to file a wrongful prosecution lawsuit against the state, county, and district attorney’s office. A message left with the district attorney’s office seeking comment on the judge’s ruling went unanswered.

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