LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Los Angeles man serving a 15-year prison term after being convicted of armed robbery and other charges was freed Tuesday after being declared factually innocent.
Derrick Harris, now 29, was convicted of one count each of second-degree robbery, possession of a firearm by a felon and disobeying a court order in connection with a 2013 armed robbery in Watts.
The victim of that crime had “misidentified” Harris after being shown a “highly suggestive” photo line-up, according to the California Innocence Project which also asked the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office to review the case.
That review discovered evidence that led to the identification of a new suspect who confessed that he had been involved in the armed robbery, but the district attorney’s office said that suspect could not be charged because the statute of limitations had expired.
“This case underscores the important ethical duty of every prosecutor to continue to seek justice, even if it requires us to admit that a mistake was made,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said.
Harris had served seven years in state prison before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan vacated his conviction, dismissed the case, permanently released him from prison and found him factually innocent of the crime.
“”It feels good. I feel blessed. I feel happy,” he said. “I feel happy that this time finally came to be with my family. We’ve been all waiting for this.
“I wasn’t just in prison alone, they did this time with me, everybody been working on this case with me,” he continued. “So I’m just blessed that everybody just helped me out and did the right thing. I’m just happy to be with my family now.”
Harris’ son, who was 2 years old when his father was sent to prison, said he wanted his dad to take him to Disneyland.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)