Gang member to be exonerated of murder
LINDA DEUTSCH (AP) | September 21, 2012
LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors are going to court Friday to seek dismissal of charges against a former gang member convicted of a drive-by murder in a gang infested neighborhood of Los Angeles 19 years ago.
John Edward Smith, who was 18 when he went to prison, was due in court with his lawyers. Sources in the district attorney’s office told The Associated Press that they expect his case against the now 38-year-old Smith to be dismissed.
Smith admitted he was a gang member at the time of the 1993 shooting that killed one man and injured another, but he maintained he was not involved in the shooting and was not present in the area when it happened. He was quickly convicted of murder and attempted murder.
Smith’s exoneration was pursued by Innocence Matters, a Torrance, Calif., public interest law firm. Attorney Deirdre O’Connor, who heads the group, said the sole witness whose testimony convicted Smith recently admitted he had lied at the trial. The witness was the shooting victim who survived.
O’Connor, who said her innocence project was formed because of her strong belief in Smith’s case, said both Smith and his accuser, Landu Mvuemba, were subjected to repeated polygraph tests confirming Smith’s claim of innocence.
In papers filed with the court, O’Connor reported that Mvuemba met with Innocence Matters representatives in 2010 and immediately blurted out that he had lied at the trial.
‘‘Within the first two minutes of the interview, Mvuemba recanted,’’ O’Connor wrote. She said the witness who was 16 at the time of the shooting, told them: ‘‘The police told me they knew who did it.’’
He said they pointed to Smith, whom he had known in elementary school and told him that other witnesses had identified Smith as the shooter. He said he was also shown a picture of his friend, DeAnthony Williams, who died in the shooting and he said, ‘‘I felt a lot of pressure to go along with it.’’
Both men had been on the street examining the scene of another shooting the night before when a car pulled up and someone opened fire.
Mvuemba said he tried three times to tell authorities the truth, that he didn’t see enough to testify, but his pleas were ignored.
Photo credit: AP/Deirdre O’Connor
Tags: Attorney Deirdre O'Connor, drive-by murder, former gang member, Innocence Matters, John Edward Smith, Landu Mvuemba, Los Angeles, polygraph tests, public interest law firm, recanted testimony, witness lying