LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com)   — The last time 46-year-old old Willie Cooks set foot in a courtroom, was nearly three decades ago. He’s been behind bars since 1989 for murder and attempted murder. Crimes he says he didn’t commit.

“Why would I confess to something I didn’t do,” he said on the stand.

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Cooks is asking a judge to throw out his conviction. He was sentenced to 33 years to life for shooting a gang rival in the back. That man survived, but a stray bullet killed a 58-year-old woman, who was just taking a walk in south LA.

Cooks’ attorney, Mark McBride was granted a hearing in downtown LA by an appeals court to re-examine the evidence against him. McBride says all three witnesses, including the shooting victim, have recanted their testimony. That victim also now say Cooks wasn’t the gunman.

“No, he didn’t shoot me,” said Michael Twyman, a rival gang member at the time. He says he lied when he said Cooks shot him.

Why recant now?

“I don’t want to see an innocent man in jail. I’ve been in prison myself,” he told the court.

The DA’s office stands by the conviction, and questioned why the witnesses, who had clear and consistent testimony, would come forward now.

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McBride says the answer is simple.

“They’re grown man now, they have children, they feel remorseful. He’s been in for almost 30 years,” said McBride.

Cook’s attorney says he wasn’t even in LA when the shooting happened. He was in San Diego, with his girlfriend and two friends. McBride says he took the case, pro bono, after Cook wrote to him from prison.

“He’s not talking about suing anyone. It’s uncanny for a client like this, he doesn’t want to do that, he just wants to come home,” McBride said.

The son of the woman Cooks was convicted of killing says he doesn’t know if Cooks is guilty, but he said, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what he thinks.

“He’s been in jail for 27 years,” said Kevin Walters, “to me, God is the one responsible for serving justice.”

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It will be some time before the judge makes his ruling, Lazar reported. The prosecution will present its case after the holidays in January. In court paperwork, the DA’s office told the judge when people change their story, it’s highly suspicious.