Call A Free Consultation
24 Hours - 7 Days

800-920-0810

Connect with us: facebook twitter google yelp

Innocent Man Still Behind Bars Two Years After Judge Ordered Release

Posted on August 21, 2012

Imagine a judge declaring that you’re not guilty of a crime, but you’re still in prison because a deadline was missed? Would this be considered a travesty of justice?

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.

English: This office building in Sacramento, C...

English: This office building in Sacramento, California is home to the main office of the California Attorney General. The building, located at 1300 I Street, was constructed in the mid-1990s. {1} Photographed by user Coolcaesar on June 13, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

But two years after he was supposed to be released, Larsen remains behind bars while the California attorney general appeals the decision. The state’s main argument: He did not file his legal paperwork seeking release on time.

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, whose office maintains that evidence still points to Larsen’s guilt, accuses him and his attorneys of filing a petition seeking his release more than six years after he was legally required to do so. Prosecutors question whether the judges had the authority to hear Larsen’s petition for release.

The standoff offers a window into what is often a defendant’s last chance to have a criminal conviction overturned.

Larsen turned to the federal court to file a habeas corpus claim after exhausting his appeals in California state courts. In overturning Larsen’s conviction, the federal court found he was “actually innocent” under the law because it had no confidence in the outcome of the original trial.

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.”

Larsen’s attorneys say prosecutors are interested only in a win for win’s sake. They contend that evidence that Larsen is innocent is strong enough to overcome any need to meet legal deadlines.

The wrangling over byzantine legal rules governing federal habeas corpus laws could take several more years to resolve.

On Monday, Larsen’s supporters delivered copies of online petitions to the attorney general’s office in downtown Los Angeles demanding the man’s release.

“He’s living in legal limbo just waiting to be released,” said his fiancee, Christina Combs.

The attorney general’s office declined to comment.

Larsen’s legal saga began in June 1998 at a parking lot outside a Northridge bar.

Two police officers responded to a report of a bar fight and testified that they saw Larsen take a shiny metal object out of his waistband and throw it under a car. They said they searched the area and found a double-edged knife about 6 inches long.

Larsen’s attorney, Michael Edward Consiglio, did not call any witnesses on Larsen’s behalf, despite his client’s claims of innocence. Jurors found him guilty and, because Larsen had two prior convictions for burglary, he qualified for a lengthy prison term under the state’s three-strikes law and was sentenced to 28 years to life.

From prison, Larsen contacted nine different attorneys for help until the California Innocence Project picked up his case in 2002.

After the group’s legal claims were repeatedly rejected in state courts, the organization filed a last-ditch habeas corpus case in federal court in 2008. A year later, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Suzanne H. Segal heard what jurors at Larsen’s initial trial never did — testimony from three witnesses who said they saw a different man, not Larsen, with the knife.

Among the new witnesses was a correctional officer visiting from Tennessee who formerly served as a police chief in North Carolina, and his wife. After listening to the witnesses, the judge described Larsen’s claims as one of the “extraordinary cases where the [prisoner] asserts his innocence and establishes that the court cannot have confidence in the contrary finding of guilt.” She found that Larsen’s attorney failed to provide a competent defense.

U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder agreed and ruled that Larsen could be released even though his legal claim missed the federal court’s deadlines.

If a loved one was the victim of wrongful incarceration that was caused by negligence or some other form of reckless behavior, it is important that you contact a committed and dedicated personal injury lawyer to help you decide if you should file a lawsuit. A competent and reputable injury lawyer can help you receive the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering.

News Service Disclaimer:iAccidentLawyer.comprovides this news service to keep you informed about accidents and events happening in and around your community. The information in these articles is obtained from a variety of secondary sources including press releases by law enforcement, websites, and news reports. This material is for general information only and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed; for complete details about a given event or accident you should refer to an official police report. iAccidentLawyer.com may not represent the parties mentioned in these news articles. If you have been injured in the reported news article and you need our help please call, we can help you. The articles are for informational purposes only. Our law firm has been helping victims of serious injuries and their families for over 30 years. Call us for a free, no obligation consultation.

Lawyer Advertising. This website is designed for general information only, and in no way is intended to constitute legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship without a signed, written agreement. Testimonials or endorsements do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. You pay no fees or costs unless we recover for you. This website contains dramatizations. Prior results are not a guarantee of a future outcome. iAccidentLawyer does not accept all cases and works cooperatively with co-counsel and/or other law firms with whom it has joint agreements who might potentially handle your cases. We look forward to helping you with your claim.

800-920-0810 iAccidentLawyer.com on Facebook Follow Us On G+ Reviews