LOS ANGELES -- A Los Angeles judge Wednesday ordered the release of a man who spent more than three decades in prison for murder after prosecutors conceded he did not get a fair trial.
Deputy District Attorney Erika Jerez said during in a Superior Court that there were errors in the case against Andrew Leander Wilson, now 62.
Judge Laura Priver thanked the DA’s office for seeing that justice was done, granted a motion to dismiss the case, and then told Wilson he was discharged.
Wilson, his head bowed and wearing a blue prison jumpsuit, quietly said “Thank you” to the judge.
She replied: “You are welcome, Mr. Wilson.”
He maintained his innocence since his arrest in 1984 for the killing of 21-year-old Christopher Hanson, who was stabbed in Los Angeles while sitting late at night in a parked pickup with his girlfriend.
A bailiff un-cuffed Wilson immediately but he was not expected to be released from custody until later Wednesday or Thursday.
Wilson will travel as soon as he can to St. Louis to visit his 96-year-old mother, Margie Davis, who was a tireless advocate for his innocence over the decades, said his lawyer, Paula Mitchell.
Reached by phone in St. Louis, Davis said she was “elated” to get the news that her son’s case was, at long last, dismissed.
“I wrote letters to the governor, to the police, to the Justice Department. I wrote to everybody over 30 years,” she said. “The system we’re living in, you never know what’s going to happen. But I never gave up.”
Mitchell said before the hearing that numerous due-process violations recently came to light that showed Wilson did not receive a fair trial.
She pointed particularly to a weeks-long delay before police began canvassing for suspects with Hanson’s girlfriend, Saladena Bishop, who was 17 at the time. Bishop was the prosecution’s only eyewitness.
Among missteps by the prosecution was the suppression of evidence that Bishop previously filed a false police report accusing another man of rape, according to court papers filed by Mitchell and other attorneys with Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent.
The district attorney’s office said it would not retry Wilson. Another hearing was set for May 3 to begin the process to determine whether he is factually innocent, which could lead to compensation claims.
Wilson’s mother said she wants to make sure her son has some warm clothes.
Then, she said, there are some chores at her home that need completing.
“He’s got to do the lawn, and there’s some painting,” she said. “I’m 96. I need help around the house.”