Derrick Harris has been released from jail after he was wrongfully convicted for crimes he did not commit.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Harris’ release after he was convicted of robbery, illegally possessing a firearm, and violating a gang injunction in 2013. He had been sentenced to 15 years in prison and served seven.
Throughout his tumultuous legal journey, Harris has maintained his innocence.
“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,” Lacey said in a statement. “I am grateful to the man who told the truth, that Mr. Harris was not involved in this crime, which ignited our reinvestigation of this case.”
That morning, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan vacated Harris’ conviction, which permanently released him from prison, dismissed his case with prejudice, and found him factually innocent of the crimes he was accused of.
In 2013, a victim identified Harris as one of two men who pointed a handgun at him and took his gold chain necklace at Hawkins House of Burgers in Watts.
Harris denied the accusations and said he was home with his girlfriend at the time of the crime.
In May of this year, the California Innocence Project submitted a written statement from the second suspect that said that Harris did not commit the robbery with him.
After the investigation was reopened, the Conviction Review Unit corroborated the written statement with the second suspect, and developed evidence that led to the identification of a new suspect who confessed to the robbery. (However, the new suspect could not be charged because the statute of limitations for robbery is three years.)
“This is the way exonerations should happen,” California Innocence Project Director Justin Brooks said in a statement. “Defense attorneys and prosecutors working together to fix mistakes from the past. My thanks go out to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office Conviction Review Unit.”