After 20 Years, Freedom for Wrongfully Convicted Man

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A judge is expected to release a man Tuesday morning who has served 20 years of a life term for attempted murder and robbery after he was found to have been wrongfully convicted, his lawyers said.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William Ryan is expected to reverse the conviction of Marco Contreras during a court hearing scheduled in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday.

An eyewitness misidentified him as the assailant during a 1996 attempted robbery at a gas station in Compton.

Lawyers at the Project for the Innocent, at Loyola Law School, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Conviction Review Unit filed a petition for Contreras to be released.

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“We are thrilled and our client is thrilled. It’s been 20 long years,” said Loyola law professor Laurie Levenson, who founded Project for the Innocent and has represented Contreras since 2012. “Thankfully this is a case that the District Attorney’s Office was committed to getting right.”

Contreras was convicted of attempted murder and attempted robbery in 1997, said Robert Grace, who heads the DA’s Conviction Review Unit.

Riverside police

Contreras’ conviction occurred after an eyewitness inaccurately identified him as the assailant, his lawyers said. The eyewitness said she saw Contreras commit a shooting, but Contreras was at home sleeping at the time, his lawyers said.

Contreras has maintained his innocence from the beginning and fought to have his case re-investigated.

In 2014, the Project for the Innocent took up his case. By the end of that year the District Attorney’s Office and the LA County Sheriff’s Department were reviewing the case.

Three men were arrested in the case after Contreras was found innocent of the crime. They were charged last week, Grace said.

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