Man Behind Bars 2 Years After Judge Orders Release
Professor Robert Weisberg spoke with Victoria Kim and Weston Phippen from the Los Angeles Times on efforts by the California Attorney General to prevent an onslaught of legal claims by prisoners who have tenuous arguments.
Daniel Larsen was in a California prison serving a life sentence when he received the news he had awaited more than a decade. A federal court in Los Angeles had thrown out his conviction for carrying a concealed knife.
Two judges concluded that jurors who convicted Larsen would never have found him guilty had they heard from additional witnesses who saw a different man with the knife. Larsen's attorney, who has since been disbarred, failed to adequately investigate the case and identify the witnesses before the trial, the judges found.
Prosecutors have long been frustrated by the seemingly endless appeals from inmates claiming innocence, many of whom were convicted on solid evidence. Robert Weisberg, a professor at Stanford Law School, said the attorney general appears to be trying to prevent an onslaught of legal claims by prisoners who have tenuous arguments. States want to make it nearly impossible for inmates to reopen their cases in federal court, which force prosecutors to retry cases in which they have already won convictions, he said.
"What they're saying is, this guy had his chances. At a certain point the music has to stop, and a case just has to be closed," Weisberg said. "We're afraid that lots of people who were not unjustly convicted are going to be encouraged to frame their case as the injustice of the century."