Man wrongfully convicted 18 years ago set free

January 12, 2011 6:58:48 PM PST
The man who was wrongly convicted of a double murder 18 years ago, walked out of jail Wednesday a free man after a judge overturned the conviction.

Caramad Conley was only 22 when he went to state prison for the murders of two people during a drive-by shooting. He's now 40 years old and he's going home.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Conley said goodbye to prison. With an entourage of family and friends, he walked out of San Francisco County Jail and into a waiting Hummer.

"I'm just going to take one day at a time," said Conley as he left the jail.

Conley uttered only a few words. His family and lawyer declined to say anything. But Tuesday after the judge ordered him released, attorney Dan Purcell told ABC7 Conley's adjustment would take time after 18 years in prison.

"I hope Caramad goes home and tries to reconnect with his family and try to make up for lost time," said Purcell.

The shooting in the spring of 1989 shocked San Franciscans. Conley was convicted of the drive-by that killed two people and injured 11 others. The key witness said he confessed to him. However, last month, a judge overturned the conviction after learning that the prosecution never disclosed that the witness, who has since died, received money from lead investigator Earl Sanders. Sanders would later become police chief.

Last year, he admitted giving the payments but said he told prosecutors about it.

The district attorney's office says it dismissed the case reluctantly. "Based on the current state of 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."

New District Attorney George Gascon told ABC7 he personally reviewed the case and approved dropping it. Conley's attorney says he believes there are other cases during that era in the late 1980s and early 1990s when authorities suppressed evidence to incriminate innocent people, and many of them may still be in prison.