CNS - A 55-year-old man who spent more than two decades in prison for a 1983 murder he says he did not commit was released March 20, a week after his murder conviction was overturned by a judge who found that a key prosecution witness had lied. Willie Earl Green has consistently maintained he was wrongly convicted of the 1983 slaying of a woman at a crack house in South Los Angeles. That conviction was overturned two weeks ago, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced March 19 it would not seek to have him retried.
“Today is a glorious day,” Green told reporters after
he walked out of jail in downtown Los Angeles.
‘It’s a great day. I never gave up on this day. I knew one day that this day would come. I knew.”
In overturning the conviction, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus ruled Green did not receive a fair trial because jurors were never given information that probably would have undermined the credibility of the only witness who identified Green as one of two men responsible for the killing. The witness, Willie Finley, recently recanted his trial testimony, saying he was high on cocaine during the killing and had been helped by police to identify Green as a suspect. Marcus also found that detectives had improperly tainted the identification process by telling Finley that Green had previously been convicted of stealing from the victim.
With prosecutors opting not to seek a retrial, Marcus ordered that Green be set free.
“I am so excited, elated,” Green’s wife, Mary, told reporters outside court.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.”
Jim McCloskey of Centurion Ministries, which worked to get Green’s conviction thrown out, said Green never should have been charged “for a crime he had absolutely nothing to do with.”
“He’s an innocent man who was wrongly convicted based on very perjurious and unreliable eyewitness testimony,” McCloskey said.
“It’s a great day. Those of us who have been working for Willie and his family, we feel as if we’ve climbed Mount Everest.”
Mary Green credited her faith with helping her and her husband persevere over the past two decades.
“Well, it was nothing but, you know, a lot of love and it took a lot of time,” she said.
“And one thing that we did is we put God first and our marriage second. And with that, you know, we were able to overcome all the obstacles.”
Willie Green thanked his wife and family for sticking with him and believing in him.
“I never asked for mercy. I only asked for justice to be served,” he said.
‘And it was served today. I would like to thank Judge Marcus for being a very courageous man. He’s a very smart man. He did his job today.
“I would also like to thank the D.A.’s office, even though 25 years ago they put me in here, but you know, that’s why they put erasers on pencils, because we all make mistakes. I’m not bitter. I don’t hate anybody. I don’t hate Willie Finley. ... I forgive him too.
“I’m a better man today. I graduated from college. I’m proud of that accomplishment. I teach school. I teach men that a whole lot of people gave up on. I believe in them.”