tv Second Look FOX February 1, 2015 11:00pm-11:31pm PST
wrongly accused. a man's coworkers rally to fight for his release. how they convinced authorities they had the wrong man. freed after 12 years behind bars a remarkable lessonover making -- lesson on making peace with the past. >> back on the street after 20 years for a crime he did not commit. >> i'm out. that's real important. i don't want unfairness to ruin
it. >> decorated war hero and black panther leader pratt on being incourse rated while his children grew up. >> i've been through pain. >> all ahead on a second look. good evening and welcome to a second look. i'm julie haener. tonight wrongful convictions how men who were accused tried and convicted of a crime did time behind bars in many cases for many years. according to a 2012uc berkeley study since january 1989, 214 californians have been exonerated or had their convictions overturned or dismissed. those 214 former inmates had spent a total of 1,113 years behind bars. tonight we start with a story of one man, a victim of mistaken identity. his coworkers rallied around him after he was accused of a crime they said he could have never committed. bob mackenzie first brought us
their story in 1992. >> james jones walked out of a martinez jail in afternoon a free man. a some what hurt and bewildered man. he had been arrested on drug sales. >> they were going to let me out that night. that next following morning which was 12:30 that came up with charges in river side. and i'm like, where did that come from? felony warrant river side i've never been to no river side. >> reporter: jones works at oakland's housing project. when his fellow maintenance workers heard he was being held for drug charges from river side they could not believe it. they know he's a family man,
hard working. >> it couldn't be james. it could have been anybody else but not james. >> reporter: why not? >> because he's an outstanding man. >> reporter: the card had been issued in river side and showed another man's photo. it appeared someone had used jones identity to obtain i. d. but when smith called the sheriff and told them they said it didn't matter they had fingerprints coming from river side. >> they called and said they got the prints, they got a match on the prints from river side and that he is going down to river side to be charged. >> reporter: smith turned to ktvu news for help. one of our assignment editors called the contra costa county sheriff's department and got the same answer. but when she persisted the deputies said they would take another look. a short while later they called back. jones would be released they said. he was the wrong man. sheriff department officials didn't want to discuss this matter with us on camera. but a lieutenant did admit that
mr. jones had been informed that fingerprints had been sent from river side and they matched him. the lieutenant says now they never did get a fingerprint match and that that was a clerical error. this morning jones went to work and meet his boss who had believed in him so greatly. >> hey. >> how is it going boy? yeah. >> we were convinced he was innocent and that's all we worked on. we believed in james. >> reporter: jones had one more place to go this afternoon. home to his wife and two children in richmond. as a rule we don't get involved in the news stories we cover but on this occasion it seemed the right thing to do. at any rate it seems to have
turned out well for james jones. the james jones who isn't a dope dealer wanted in river side. justice did not come quickly for an east palo alto man who spent 12 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit. but as bob mackenzie found out in 2003, despite years behind bars, rick walker said he was not angry. >> watching rick walker cheerily working on a car at precision automotive services you would never guess what he has gone through. >> okay. let's do a check over. make sure we got everything connected. >> fine job and i must say so myself. let's crank her up. >> reporter: rick walker knows cars, he's been fixing them since he was 15. but he has some catching up to do. cars changed in the past 12 years. the 12 years he spent in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
on june 9, he walked out of court a free man. he had been serving a life term for the murder of a young woman. santa clara county authorities discovered their mistake when five witnesses came forward to exonerate him and dna evidence confirmed his innocence. what was it like finally getting out? >> it was kind of emotional. it really was. kind of overwhelming. to come back to the fear i came. i would have passed that exit because you know when you drive you drive by landmarks. >> i'm listening to you and, you don't seem bitter to me. >> no. i'm not bitter at all. >> are you angry a little bit? >> no. no. >> reporter: not angry? >> no. i have philosophy about that and i try to share it with
everybody i come across. when you get mad. you're the only person it affects. >> reporter: at 2:30, the state legislature rushing to complete its session, passed a special bill releasing $428,000 to be paid to walker. one hundred dollars for every day he spent in prison. walker is glad to get the money. but he remembers that just before he was arrested he had planned to buy a fixer upper house in east palo alto for about $50,000. the money he's getting from the state won't buy that house today. >> for me, it was something good that came out of it. i got in touch with my spirituality. and i learned to rely on god more than i rely on my own, right. and that keeps us from worrying so much. >> reporter: to go through what rick walker went through and come out of it with a loving and generous heart. you know you're dealing with a very remarkable man indeed. >> the year after walker was released another man pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the crime.
walker had been convicted of committing. walker was awarded $2.75 million to settle a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit he filed against santa clara county and other agencies involved in his case. when we caught up with him last month he was still working at the garage. he says he's thinking about retiring to a home he built in clear lake. the house has room for a repair shop so he says he plans to tinker on cars in the front of the house and plans to go fishing from the back of the side. still to come. >> a former fbi agent talks about jeronimo pratt. >> i thought i was going to work till i died until that man was freed. and later she saw her client exonerated. what happened after he was released from prison.
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look. tonight a look at wrongful convictions. perhaps one of the best well known cases is that of geronimo pratt. he was sent to prison for more than a quarter of a century for a killing in los angeles while he claimed to be hundreds of miles away in oakland. in 1994. chris harris filed this report on the evidence suggesting pratt had been unjustly inprisoned. >> reporter: his given name is jeronimo pratt. serving life for murder. he was born and raised in morgan city louisiana but the world knows him as jeronimo pratt. he went to vietnam with the 82nd airborne and came home with a chest full of medals. he enrolled at ucla in a
program for th talented and gifted and became the leader of the black panthers. now there's growing indications that jeronimo pratt has spent 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. at 8:10, december 18, 1968 and remember that time it is very important. two armed black men came up and demanded money. the olsens gave them all the money they had. $220. the two men asked the olsens to lay down on the ground and walked away but then came back
to shoot the olesens. >> i was attending a meeting with the black panther party. we were conducting -- >> reporter: if pratt is telling the truth, how could a men spend 22 years in prison for a crime he did not do. according to pratt and his attorney, it's because of tricks the fbi did. >> essentially he was framed for murder in order to -- as the president of the black panther party. >> reporter: this is the local fbi request of a wiretap.
two bay area private investigators claim in this recent proclamation, they saw fbi wiretap laws that pratt was in oakland the evening of the murder. quote at 5:30 p.m. on december 18, 1968 a female made a telephone call and had a conversation with jeronimo. the bloody assault took place just two hours and 45 minutes after that call. pratt claims to have made several calls from oakland to the panther offices in los angeles during that time. but those fbi wiretap logs are missing. retired fbi agent swearinger. >> i was in the fbi for 25 years and it was the only time that i was not able to find wiretap catalogs. that tells me, someone, i don't know i could guess, but someone destroyed two weeks worth of
wiretap laws to establish that pratt did not call los angeles from san francisco. >> reporter: kenneth olsen never saw pratt in a line up because police never put pratt on a line up. olsen identified pratt from an array of pictures. they claim the l.a.p.d. led olsen into identified pratt. >> mr. olsen had been convinced that it was pratt that committed the murder. i was told that mr. olsen had identified at least two or three other people. >> reporter: pratt has two children growing up without him. >> i've been through countless shoot outs in vietnam, i've been through prison, i mean i've been through pain. but that's a pain i simply cannot describe. you know, not being there for
those children. >> reporter: los angeles 1969, three police officers and four panthers wounded in this 4-1/2 shoot out at panther head quarter. pratt a vietnam hero had become -- pratt was a specific target calling for pratt to be quote neutralized as a panther leader. when pratt was arrested, hoover wrote quote, the counter intelligence is to disrupt the black panther party and it's immaterial whether pratt exists
to substantiate the charge. in 1997 an orange county judge overturned pratt's conviction. ruling the prosecution concealed evidence that could have led to pratt's acquittal. i just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your fair and courageous ruling. >> shortly after his release, pratt flew to san francisco where he was greeted by his wife, children and lawyer handlin who had worked on his case for decades. >> this man here, i love him to death. when you go through what i've been through you learn that hate has no place in a human heart. >> he settled a false imprisonment against the fbi and city of los angeles for $4.5 million. he died in 2011 at the age of 63. when we come back, on a second look. >> i'm having a hell of a time.
welcome back. it was an ugly custody battle that sent a man to jail for sexually molesting several children including his own kids. he was eventually exonerated. in 2004, bob mackenzie caught up with stoll as he was trying to pick up his life again outside of prison walls. >> reporter: when tom stoll was
sent to prison convicted of molesting six which i -- six children he knew he was an innocent man. for 18 years he endured prison life working on himself not to be angry. >> being angry in prison is the norm. so you see yourself change in many figures. i'm not going there. >> reporter: over the years he tried many times to find someone who would listen to his story. at last he found the innocence project. an organization of volunteers and young lawyers who worked to find and overturn wrongful convictions. >> we've been trying to find somebody to take his case. when we found out we grabbed it and ran. >> reporter: it was determined the children who had accused him had been coached and influenced by police and social workers. five of the six children now grown up testified that the molestation never happened. >> i told him you know numerous
times you know it didn't happen to me. they didn't believe me now, just like they didn't believe me when i was a kid. >> reporter: in 2008, stoll walked out of prison on his 64th birthday a free man. >> nothing like i've ever felt. my heart is pounding away. >> reporter: you spent two years working on mr. stoll's case. was there a time when you thought you wouldn't make it? >> no i thought i was going to work till i died until that man was free. >> reporter: it must have meant something to you when he walked out of prison then. >> that was, i will say the best moment of my life. >> reporter: stoll was happy but broke. ever since his release he has been living on a scant social security check and trying to get a job. he told us about a typical job interview. which seemed to go well at first. >> you know i knew i was in the door then when he asked about my you know, my 20 years where i had been, that was the end of it. >> reporter: california's state
law provides compensation for people wrongfully convicted. one hundred dollars for every day spent behind prison. but the wheels of justice turned slowly. after four months of study, she decided she believed him. >> i was confident that the way to the evidence showed that mr. stoll was innocent not just of molesting five children but of molesting any of the children. >> reporter: but it still must go before a judge. >> these legal proceedings really take a long time because there's just 20 years of information to go through. >> reporter: meanwhile, john stoll is still broke. >> the count cy eventually awarded stoll$5.5 million in
those false identifications not only hurt on those accused they also take a toll on the accuser. >> reporter: when an eyewitness to a crime getting it wrong. the consequences can be -- nobody knows more than thompson. thompson picked her supposed attacker roland collins out of a line up. but he turned out to be the wrong man. >> i was devastated. >> reporter: her message, our memories can be unreliable. >> we make really bad mistakes and those mistakes lead to an innocent being inprisoned and a guilty person still on the street. so it's really important particularly for our
prosecutors and police officers to understand the complexities of human memory. >> reporter: this event at the university of san francisco was put on by the northern california innocence project. a group that works to overturn wrongful convictions. advocates are pushing for law enforcement agencies to use what are called sequential blind line ups. that's when police show a witness photos one by one and the officer doesn't know which one is the suspect. >> sometimes unintentionally there's feed back in the change of the tone of voice. facial expression, you know there's a confirmation of they got the person and we don't want that to happen. >> reporter: some prosecutors in the bay area have already put those rules in place. >> when we're talking about the lives of people. i think we need to put checks and balances. >> we don't want to contaminate it and get it wrong. >> reporter: thompson is hoping those with the power to arrest and prosecute will learn from
her life changing mistake. >> the innocence project is a driving force behind many of the exonerations. it was the innocence project that helped free a man for a crime he did not commit. >> tonight we sat down with linda star an attorney and cofounder of the innocence project. she was in court when a judge overturned the charges against ronald charge. >> everybody knows there's a presumption of innocence before you're found guilty. he had absolutely no motive to do this and no connection to the people who have been involved in this and no violent criminal history at all and he was well into his 40s. >> reporter: the only reason ross was brought into the case
is when an investigator randomly chose ross'. she says the problem is when a person is shown six photos, they tend to compare the faces to each other. >> never been there. never knew about the place. you know what i mean. didn't know nothing about it. >> he's one of 16 people the innocence project has helped free. but that new freedom cannot prevent new challenges. >> they have serious reentry issues. >> now ronald ross will confront that. >> reporter: that's it for this week's second look. i'm julie haener thank you for watching.
he was with her, and she went very peacefully in her sleep. she and i had a special connection. we all did. but mostly me. she said i was just like her. was she weirdly competitive, too? the whole family is going down to florida tomorrow to be with phil for the service. it's such a relief. i can feel how much he needs me right now. there they are. hey, guys. oh! oh, you brought my neck pillow.