A judge Wednesday ordered the release of a man who spent more than 32 years behind bars in a murder case in which Los Angeles County prosecutors agreed that he did not get a “fundamentally fair trial.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Laura F. Priver granted a request to vacate Andrew Leander Wilson’s November 1986 conviction for the robbery and murder of Christopher Hanson, and dismissed the case against the 62-year-old man.
Wilson was expected to be released from custody late Wednesday afternoon.
“Mr. Wilson has maintained his innocence from the day he was arrested in 1984. He has never wavered and never stopped fighting to prove his innocence,” his attorney, Paula Mitchell, said.
“Numerous due process violations that recently came to light show conclusively that Mr. Wilson did not receive a fair trial,” said Mitchell, the legal director of Loyola Law School’s Los Angeles Project for the Innocent.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Mitchell added: “Mr. Wilson is elated. He is so glad this is finally over. When he first contacted our office, one of the things he said to us is, `This whole ordeal has been a nightmare for my entire family.”‘
In a court filing, Deputy District Attorney Erika Jerez wrote, “Based on the LADA’s post-conviction investigation, the LADA concedes that cumulative errors during pre-trial and trial proceedings deprived Mr. Wilson of his constitution right to a fundamentally fair trial … The LADA does not intend to retry Mr. Wilson after the convictions are vacated.”
The prosecutor noted that Wilson was convicted based on the testimony of an eyewitness whose identification was partially corroborated by a second witness who placed Wilson in the area around the time of the crime.
A third witness overheard Wilson make “incriminating statements suggesting Mr. Wilson was involved in Hanson’s robbery and murder,” Jerez wrote, noting that no physical evidence connected him to the crime.
Wilson plans to return to St. Louis to spend time with his mother, Margie Davis, who will turn 97 on May 1.
“Mrs. Davis’ commitment to seeing her son released from prison and exonerated is truly remarkable. She has been right by his side every step along the way for the last 32 years,” said Adam Grant, Loyola Project for the Innocent’s program director.
A May 3 hearing is scheduled on whether Wilson should be declared factually innocent of the crime. In the court filing from the District Attorney’s Office, Jerez wrote that the District Attorney’s Office does not believe Wilson is factually innocent.
“Should Mr. Wilson later move for a judicial finding of factual innocence, LADA will vigorously contest that motion at the inevitable evidentiary hearing that will follow,” Jerez wrote.
—City News Service
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