Man who spent decades locked up to be set free

January 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
San Francisco prosecutors decided against re-trying a man imprisoned for 18 years, who was wrongly convicted in a double murder case. A judge ruled that authorities failed to tell the defense during the trial of Caramad Conley that they paid thousands of dollars to the star prosecution witness.

Judge Maria Miller found that Conley was denied a fair trial and was "unconstitutionally convicted." The 40-year-old has been in prison since 1992, serving two life sentences for the murders which occurred in the Bayviey-Hunters Point District in 1989.

The District Attorney's Office released a statement to ABC7 News that said the office had carefully reviewed every option. They said, "However, based upon the current state of the evidence, some 22 years after the fact and the death and unavailability of key witnesses, we will not be able to sustain our burden of proof at trial."

Judge Miller found that police investigators knew the prosecution's star witness, Clifford Polk, lied on the stand about whether he was being paid in a witness protection program in another case. Miller also found that the lead investigator in the case, Earl Sanders who later became police chief, knew about the perjury but did not inform the court.

Conley's family and lawyer Dan Purcell were taken by surprise at today's announcement which prosecutors made during a routine status hearing on the case.

"It's a great day for Caramad, it's a great day for his family and it's a great day for justice," Purcell said.

New District Attorney George Gascon told ABC7 News he personally reviewed the case and approved the decision.

"Caramad goes home and tries to reconnect with his family and make up for lost time," he said.

Purcell believes there may be other old cases where authorities suppressed evidence.

"We're concerned it's a pattern, and we're concerned nobody's really looked at it and there are other innocent people in jail," he said.

Conley could be released as early as Tuesday from San Francisco County Jail's holding cell after he's processed out.