Man convicted of murder released from jail

March 28, 2011 11:34:21 PM PDT
A convicted murderer is out of prison and not because he served his time. Maurice Caldwell, 43, says he was wrongfully convicted. His attorneys secured his release late last week and so on Monday, he became a free man.

Caldwell says this is a case of justice finally prevailing, but the District Attorney's office says in no way does Caldwell's release mean he's innocent.

Caldwell emerged from the San Francisco jail a free man. He was in prison for 21 years, serving a murder sentence, but last week, that conviction was overturned.

"I feel good being home, being able to hold my sister like this. You know, I feel blessed," said Caldwell.

Caldwell was convicted for the 1990 drug-related murder of Judy Acosta in San Francisco. But he had always maintained his innocence, and while serving his time at Folsom State Prison, Caldwell sought help. Attorneys with the Northern California Innocence Project responded to the call and for the past few years argued on his behalf in court.

"He was identified by a witness in the projects who looked out her window and claimed to have seen him. It's a case of mistaken eyewitness identification which is the single largest cause of wrongful convictions in our country and so it was a mistake," said attorney Linda Starr.

It was enough for the judge in this case to order a new trial. But since much of the evidence was destroyed over the years, the judge ruled there was no way Caldwell could receive a fair trial. He then ordered his release.

"After all these years, they thought they had justice but it wasn't. It was un-served justice and it's still un-served justice," said Caldwell.

"I just think it needs to be clear that there was no finding that this defendant was innocent," said San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Eric Fleming.

Fleming is the prosecutor in this case. He says his thoughts are with the murder victim's family.

"Now 21 years later, the cousins, the brothers have to see that the person who committed this crime is now walking the streets," said Fleming.

Caldwell said although he is innocent, he does feels bad for the victim's family, but his focus now is to live his life. He said he's looking forward to "being productive. I'm not in prison no more, you know what I'm saying? So, I've got opportunities."

Caldwell plans to live with his sister in Antioch for the time being. She runs a cleaning company and says Caldwell will likely work for her.

"We had gone to court and 20 years later, this whole things gets ripped open and this wound is a new, raw wound again and it's not fair because now there's no justice for our family loss," said Raelynn Acosta, the murder victim's cousin.


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