LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – After serving 19 years for a crime in San Quentin Prison, 19-year-old Emon Barnes said he did not commit it.
Barnes was only 15 years old when he was arrested by members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on suspicion of attempted murder in 2001 in connection with two gang-related shootings in Compton.
Barnes, who was tried as an adult, was found guilty in one of the shootings, in a case that relied largely on testimony from a teenage witness – who has since retired. Barnes was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
And for the past six years, Project for Innocents lawyers at Loyola Law School have been working to overturn Barnes' conviction. Due to underlying health conditions, prison release has been given a new urgency amid the coronavirus pandemic that has sickened approximately 2,400 inmates at San Quentin Prison.
"His conviction has not changed since today's verdict, but his verdict has been recalled," said Michael Peterson, lawyer for the Innocent Project, after a judge announced that Barnes' sentence had been reduced to serving time. "The judge was able to exercise a certain amount of discretion and make various decisions."
Since Barnes' sentencing and sentencing in 2001, California law has changed to prevent 15-year-old defendants from being tried as adults.
"This is an example of how we can bring some of our current attitudes toward criminal justice and apply them to past cases," Peterson said at the time of the announcement.
Now that Barnes was released, lawyers from the Project for the Innocents said they would continue their work to clear his name.