Beating a Life Sentence

How a Family Proved the Innocence, and Won the Release of, a Young Father Facing Life


Ramon, a 28-year-old father of two, was falsely arrested for a gang-related murder. Ramon had no criminal history, was not at the scene of the crime, and was picked up based on the detective’s matching description of an “average Hispanic male” with a tattoo on his neck. Ramon was picked up at gunpoint at his work. Ramon was completely innocent of these charges.

Although initially having a public defender he felt confident with, the attorney got replaced, and Ramon ended up with an attorney that he felt unsatisfied with. While facing a life sentence for a crime he did not commit, at one point the attorney told him he should take a plea.

Ramon’s family came to De-Bug’s ACJP once Ramon was detained. The family, with the community support, immediately took the first steps to get an assessment of the attorney’s investment of time and effort into the case. They sent emails to the attorney asking what investigation had been done so far on Ramon’s behalf, what witnesses had been interviewed, what review had been done in the discovery (the evidence used in the case) and asked what his general defense strategy was going to be. They also emphasized the knowledge the family already had of the case – details of how Ramon was picked up, what happened when police confiscated items from the home, and information and proof of Ramon’s distance from the scene at the time of the incident. Eventually the repeated emails forced a series of meetings with the attorney. Timelines were set for the attorney to take certain steps, ones that could be identified, and inquired about if passing without the expected work product.

The family received a copy of the discovery of the case against Ramon. On a weekly basis, the family and supporting community members spent hours meeting and scouring over the materials – comparing notes and observations. The group found contradictory statements by police and witnesses, glaring holes in the investigation, and identified how the evidence actually pointed to Ramon’s innocence, rather than guilt. The group then processed that material into a list of “Ten Evidence Based Reasons That Prove Ramon’s Innocence.” The list also came with a request from Ramon and the family – to conduct a polygraph. Though generally not admissible in court, a passed polygraph can be used when the defense attorney is in discussion with the prosecutor. The attorney followed the family’s wishes and ordered the polygraph. Ramon passed the polygraph – twice.

The lawyer then met with the prosecutor, presented his material (which included the findings of the family and community) plus the two passed polygraphs. After six months of detainment, the prosecutor then asked the judge to release Ramon, and dropped the charges, “due to insufficiency
of the evidence.”

OUTCOME: After being released, Ramon and his family were still determined to prove his innocence. He had his attorney file a request for a “factual finding of innocence,” a rarely granted legal device that can clear a person’s name and record, and can affirmatively state that an individual was innocent all along. Ramon was granted the factual finding of innocence, and the attorney who presented the case said it was the first time in 25 years that he had been a part of one that had won.

Ramon was fired from his job as a delivery driver when he was arrested, and had to fight with management to get his job back. His efforts got him his job back, and he is working full time and raising his children. Ramon is currently pursuing a civil lawsuit against the San Jose Police Department for wrongful arrest.

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