LA Man Cleared of Murder, Freed After 19 Years

Former gang member had been sentenced to life

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 25, 2012 1:12 PM CDT

(Newser) – A former gang member sentenced to life in prison for a murder he didn't commit walked out of prison yesterday after 19 years, reports NBC Los Angeles. John Edward Smith, now 37, had always maintained his innocence in the drive-by killing, but it wasn't until advocacy group Innocence Matters took up his case in 2009 that things began to change. Turns out, the sole witness whose testimony convicted Smith admits he lied under police pressure. Smith was at his grandmother's house when the killing took place.

"I had days when I was really frustrated, but I knew I couldn't stop," Smith told the Los Angeles Times, adding that he was dazzled by the lights of downtown. The LAT adds this odd footnote: Smith's exoneration took place just before singer Chris Brown's probation hearing, so the celeb himself happened to be in the courtroom. He applauded along with Smith's family when the judge delivered the good news.

This undated file image provided by Deirdre O'Connor shows John Edward Smith with his grandmother, Laura Neal.   (AP Photo/Deirdre O'Connor, File)
This image provided by Deirdre O'Connor shows a booking photo of John Edward Smith.   (AP Photo/Deirdre O'Connor)
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