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March 13, 2024: District Attorney Gascón Announces Exoneration of Man Wrongfully Convicted of a South L.A. Murder in 2005

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Stephen Patterson’s exoneration marks the thirteenth under the Gascón Administration

LOS ANGELES, CA — Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced today the exoneration and release of Stephen Patterson, who spent nearly two decades in prison for a South L.A. murder in 2005 he did not commit.

“In this era of progress, it’s crucial to acknowledge the imperfections of our past and actively work to correct those wrongs,” District Attorney Gascón said. “It’s our responsibility that no family is torn apart by a miscarriage of justice, and no community is left with the actual perpetrator roaming their streets. Our office’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) is dedicated to meticulously reviewing cases and collaborating to uncover the truth and increase public safety.”

 Michael Semanchik, executive director of The Innocence Center, said he was thrilled that Patterson has been exonerated.

“Stephen has always maintained his innocence. Unfortunately, his wrongful conviction was the product of a single bad eyewitness identification and shoddy police work,” Semanchik said. “We are lucky to have a great working relationship with the CIU. Not only did it allow us to free an innocent person, but together, we identified the true perpetrators.”       

On April 15, 2005, at approximately 4:45 p.m., Yair Oliva was shot to death as he stood in front of an apartment complex near the corner of 68th Street and Parmalee Avenue in South Los Angeles. Two months later, a woman who had witnessed the shooting from a distance of nearly 200 feet, identified Patterson as one of the shooters from a photo lineup. Another witness shown the same lineup did not identify Patterson. No other witnesses were shown photo lineups. No physical evidence was discovered connecting Patterson to the shooting.

On Aug. 9, 2007, a jury convicted Patterson of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. Patterson has maintained his innocence from the time of his arrest.

Patterson’s mother, Joann Pryor, hired private investigator Eduardo Hernandez to probe further, and later, The Innocence Center took up the case. On March 19, 2022, following their investigation, Hernandez filed a conviction review request with the CIU claiming Patterson was wrongfully convicted. In his request, Hernandez identified by name the two people he believed to be the true perpetrators of the crime.

The CIU interviewed witnesses who had either not been identified before trial or who had been identified but had not testified at trial. Based on these collective findings, the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office and The Innocence Center requested that the court vacate the conviction, order Patterson to be released, and issue a finding of factual innocence. The court granted the request.

The exoneration announced today marks the fifth exoneration of 2024, and the thirteenth exoneration under the Gascón Administration.