LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A former Marine who served 24 years in prison after he was wrongfully convicted of murder will be allowed to move forward with his lawsuit against Los Angeles County.

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday Thomas Goldstein’s 1980 conviction resulted from “the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office’s failure to adopt necessary and reasonable internal administrative policies and procedures.”

“I agree that he is entitled to pursue his claim,” Judge Sidney R. Thomas wrote for the court.

Goldstein was incarcerated for what prosecutors alleged was his involvement in the 1979 shotgun murder of John McGinest, a drug dealer who lived near his Long Beach home.

The case became controversial as conflicting accounts were given by eyewitnesses and a lack of forensic evidence linked him to the crime.

The conviction rested largely on allegations made by a police informer who was later determined to be unreliable. Edward Fink was placed in Goldstein’s cell at Long Beach City Jail and alleged Goldstein admitted to committing the murder. It was later revealed that had received reduced sentences for testifying in numerous other cases. Prosecutors said they were not aware of this at the time.

Goldstein was released by a judge in 2004. He sued Los Angeles County and prosecutors for civil damages, citing mismanagement and lack of procedure tracking jailhouse informants.

A Los Angeles federal judge dismissed Goldstein’s suit after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a separate case prosecutors were immune from liability in the misuse of jailhouse informants.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal, ruling Goldstein may take legal action against the county for mismanagement.

Goldstein’s attorney, Barrett S. Litt, told City News Service his client is “very happy” with the decision. The case continues.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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