'Actually Innocent' Man Walks Out Of Prison After 13 Years
It took 13 years of appeals, but Daniel Larsen was finally able to walk out of prison after serving time for a crime that a federal judge said he did not commit.Police found a knife under a car during a bar fight in Northridge in 1998, and they said Larsen had chucked it. Larsen was found guilty of carrying a concealed weapon 13 years ago. Because Larsen had two burglary convictions, this was considered his third strike and he was sentenced to 27 years in prison.
Larsen always insisted he was innocent, and the California Innocence Project took on his case. It turns out there were several witnesses—including a former chief of police from North Carolina—who had actually seen another man toss the knife. None of them were ever called to testify in Larsen's case. In 2010, a judge ordered his release, finding that he was "actually innocent" of the crime and that Larsen's constitutional rights were violated, because his attorney was incompetent, according to the Huffington Post.
Despite the judge's ruling, he wasn't able to walk out of prison for two more years. The state attorney general challenged the judge's ruling and said that Larsen had missed the boat on filing an appeal.
Although Larsen was able to walk out of prison yesterday, he's not out of the woods yet, the Times reports. State officials still maintain that he's guilty, and they're still appealing his case. Larsen is free on bond, and he is being required to look for a job, take anger management courses, undergo a mental health evaluation, agree to drug tests and avoid associating with the Nazi Low Riders, a white supremacist gang he was once associated with.
A case in the U.S. Supreme Court could settle some of the legal technicalities of the case. But in the meantime, his attorneys are trying to see if he can get resentenced under Proposition 36, which softens California's Three Strikes law.
Jan Stiglitz, Larsen's attorney and co-director of the California Innocence Project, says Larsen wants to work with at-risk teenagers to help them avoid prison.
Before he walked out of the courtroom, Larsen said, "I feel good, feel blessed."