LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Compton man who has spent the past 19 years as an inmate at San Quentin prison will be released next week amid questions over the evidence used to convict him.
“So his conviction hasn’t changed following today’s ruling, but his sentence was recalled,” Michael Peterson, attorney for the Project for the Innocent, said. “The judge was able to exercise some discretion and make some different sentencing choices.”
Emon Barnes, now 34, was 15 years old when deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department arrested him on suspicion of attempted murder in 2001 in connection with a pair of gang-related shootings in Compton.
Barnes, who was tried as an adult and maintains his innocence, was found guilty in one of the shootings in a case that largely depended on statements from a teenage witness.
And since Barnes’ 2001 conviction, California law has changed to prevent 15-year-old defendants from being tried as adults.
“And they cannot receive a sentence of 40-years to life like Emon did,” Peterson said.
Lawyers with the Project for the Innocent at Loyola Law School took on Barnes’ case about six years ago in an effort to clear his name after that witness recanted his testimony, but getting Barnes out of prison took on a new sense of urgency in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Barnes was one of 2,400 inmates who contracted COVID-19 at the prison, but attorneys said he has since recovered.
And his lawyers said even the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office supported the move to have the case reexamined.
“This is an example of just kind of bringing some of our present attitudes about criminal justice and applying them to cases of the past,” Peterson said.
Attorneys at the Project for the Innocent said they would continue their work to clear Barnes’ name after his release next week.