LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Kimberly Long was exonerated for the 2003 murder of her boyfriend.
But last month a court of appeals reinstated her conviction.
The ruling was handed down even though the judge who presided over her trial said in open court that she is probably innocent.
KCAL9’s Randy Paige first broke Kimberly’s story in 2015 before she was exonerated.
Tonight, he picks up the latest chapter in her life.
She said she wakes up every day wondering if this will be the day they take her back to prison.
She is scared and the idea of going back to prison hits her in the gut.
Where does she go when she needs a little solace and peace? The opposite of a noisy, crowded prison.
Long goes to Joshua Tree National Park and it’s easy to see why a place like this has come to mean so much to her.
Absolute silence is broken only by a passing car in the distance. It’s a place where open spaces are endless. You can be alone here with your thoughts and dreams.
“I forgot how quiet things can be,” Long says.
Long spent more than seven years in the prison. Her boyfriend was murdered in October 2003.
She told police she came home to find him beaten to death and called 911.
Police arrived on scene and found a bloody crime scene. There was blood everywhere — everywhere but on the clothes she was wearing that night.
The same judge who presided over her original trial, Patrick Magers, looked at the new evidence and set her free. At a more recent hearing, he had no problem saying she was “probably innocent.”
“And that’s extraordinary, that’s something I haven’t seen in my career,” says Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project.
“Judge Magers knows this case better than anyone. He’s the original trial judge. He’s heard all the witnesses, he’s looked at all the evidence. And he’s come to the conclusion that Kim Long is most likely innocent,” Brooks says.
Last month, a California Appellate court reinstated the conviction saying her appeal was based on the argument that she received inadequate defense at trial. The appellate judges ruled she had received effective counsel.
“Regardless of whether her lawyer did a good job or a bad job, if we later on find out we have an innocent person in prison, they should be released,” Brooks said.
He says her only hope is an appeal to the California Supreme Court and a plea to Governor Brown for clemency.
Paige asked Brooks what he would tell Brown if he was sitting in front of him.
“I’d say, Governor Brown, I’m not even asking you to declare Kimberly Long innocent. I’m asking you to recognize that there’s a case here with compelling evidence of innocence, where this young woman has suffered years of incarceration , where no one can look at this case and not see doubt all over it . Please – grant her clemency,” Brooks said.
“I’m innocent,”Long says.
Today, Long looks back on the milestones she missed with her two children while she was behind bars — and she thinks about her uncertain future.
“I’m a mom, so anybody else who’s a mom, who misses out on that time, like they get it. They understand that one day is too long but seven years and three months? That’s torture, and it’s wrong,” Long said.
So she continues to bathe in the solitude of the desert — and prays her freedom is a permanent thing.
The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office declined to talk to Paige about this story saying they do not comment on matters with ongoing litigation.
Paige says he will send a copy of this story to Governor Brown for his response.