Exonerated Celebrate "Innocence Day" - NBC Southern California

Exonerated Celebrate "Innocence Day"

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    Exonerated Ex-Prisoners Joining Push to Free Others

    More than 70 prisoners have been freed from prison so far this year after being cleared of crimes they didn't commit, and the Project for the Innocent hopes to add even more to that number. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. (Published Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014)

    Loyola Law School's Project for the Innocent celebrated "Innocence Day" in Los Angeles by bringing together a group of exonerated men and women to share their stories.

    Obie Anthony, convicted in 1994 for a murder at a brothel in South LA, was given a sentence of life without parole.

    Kash Register spent 34 years and seven months in prison for a murder he didn't commit. He was just released last November.

    Nick Yarris spent 23 years in solitary confinement for rape and murder - neither of which he committed.

    Three examples, the Project says, shows a broken judicial system in drastic need of help.

    Loyola Law Professor Laurie Levenson says students and staff work together on multiple cases that come to their attention where evidence or testimony comes into question.

    If, after a thorough investigation of the case a true claim of innocence is provable, students draft a habeas petition so the case can be litigated.

    "It's unbelievable that this type of injustice can occur," says Levenson. "We have prosecutors who are not turning over evidence. We rely on so-called eyewitness IDs that are no good. We have jailhouse snitches. But mainly what we have are people that are too eager to convict."

    And for some, prosecutors who may have lied about evidence or kept key information on cases away from juries, continue to prosecute.

    That's the case for Obie Anthony, who says the prosecutor who made a deal with a pimp to convict him still works for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

    And yet Anthony holds very little anger.

    "Anger keeps you in prison," says Anthony. "They've already taken 17 years of my life."

    Eyewitness testimony has long been argued as unreliable. It's what put Anthony in prison.

    "When was the last time somebody said to you that you look like someone else, or that you remind them of this person. It was just that easy that I found myself in the penitentiary with life without the possibility of parole," Anthony says.

    Kash Register says he couldn't help but break down in tears during the initial trial that convicted him.

    "I don't care who you are. They put you in that seat right there. They point you out. Everybody gonna look the same," he says.

    Nick Yarris says he was stopped by Philadelphia police in the early 1980s while he was on a methamphetamine high.

    When he resisted arrest, he says the officer fired a shot into the ground, threw him in the back of his cruiser and then made a "shots fired" call asking for back-up.

    Yarris was later convicted for the rape and murder of a woman four days before the scuffle with police.

    "Yes, I did ask to be executed for a crime I didn't commit," Yarris says, looking back to 2003 after having been in solitary confinement for 23 years.

    A federal judge considered his plea and used DNA tests to later free him.

    Those who shared their stories with the Project for the Innocents say they feel a mission to their lives now, to continue to share their stories.

    And they thanked the effort of the students and staff at Loyola for helping to free them.

    "Your efforts, for bringing me home, will not go in vain," says Anthony. "I will make you proud."

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