LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — After serving 19 years in San Quentin prison for a crime he says he did not commit, 34-year-old Emon Barnes was released Friday.
Barnes was just 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, was found guilty in one of the shootings in a case that largely depended on statements from a teenage witness — who has since recanted his testimony. Barnes was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison.
And, for the past six years, attorneys with the Project for the Innocent at Loyola Law School have been working to get Barnes’ conviction vacated. But, due to underlying health conditions, getting Barnes out of prison took on a new sense of urgency in light of the coronavirus pandemic that has sickened about 2,400 inmates at San Quentin prison.
“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 after a judge announced Barnes’ sentence had been lessened to time served. “The judge was able to exercise some discretion and make some different sentencing choices.”
Since Barnes’ 2001 conviction and sentencing, California law has changed to prevent 15-year-old defendants from being tried as adults.
“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 at the time of the announcement.
With Barnes now released, attorneys for the Project for the Innocent said they would continue their work to clear his name.