A Los Angeles judge dismissed all charges Friday against Bobby Joe Maxwell, an accused serial killer who is comatose and near death in a jail medical ward following a massive heart attack last year.
Maxwell has been jailed since 1979, when he was accused of being the “Skid Row Stabber,” believed to have claimed the lives of 10 homeless men in downtown Los Angeles.
Maxwell, 68, was convicted of two murders, but those convictions were overturned, and he was subsequently indicted in connection with five of the killings.
During a brief hearing, Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler dismissed the charges against Maxwell, ending a 40-year legal morass that involved a jailhouse informant scandal, tossed convictions and a defendant who continued to maintain his innocence. The charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning the case could be refiled in the unlikely event that Maxwell regains his health.
It was placed on the record that the reason for the dismissal “was due to the theory of compassionate release and not because law enforcement or the District Attorney’s Office believes that Mr. Maxwell is factually innocent,” according to Greg Riesling, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
A jury convicted Maxwell in two of the murders in 1984, during a trial that largely hinged on the testimony of a jailhouse informant who claimed Maxwell confessed to the murders, according to a recent Los Angeles Times story.
Those convictions were later thrown out when it was revealed that the informant was part of a network of Los Angeles County jailhouse snitches who had been fabricating confessions in exchange for lighter sentences from prosecutors, the Times reported.
Maxwell’s convictions were overturned by an appellate court in 2010, but an appeal of that decision delayed the case again until 2013, when prosecutors obtained an indictment to bring Maxwell to trial again for five of the murders. He has remained in custody, ineligible for bail as his attorneys and prosecutors argued over reams of discovery documents and evidence that had been destroyed or lost by the Los Angeles Police Department, according to the newspaper.
The Times reported that in a letter sent to Fidler, the jail ward’s chief physician confirmed Maxwell’s health would not improve, and warned he could die before the end of the year.
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