Man Exonerated after Nearly Two Decades Incarceration – Wrongful Conviction Marks 5th Los Angeles County Exoneration in 2 Weeks 

By Praniti Gulyani 

LOS ANGELES, California— Marking the fifth exoneration of 2024, and the thirteenth exoneration under District Attorney George Gascón’s administration here in Los Angeles County, Stephen Patterson was released March 13 after two decades in prison for a South LA murder he did not commit. 

As per a press release issued by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, “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 on April 15, 2005, at approximately 4:45 p.m.” 

The press release adds that “two months later, a woman who had witnessed the shooting from a 200-foot distance identified Patterson as one of the shooters from a photo lineup.” However, another witness who was shown the same photo lineup did not identify Patterson. Also, no physical evidence was discovered that connected Patterson to the shooting. 

The press release notes Patterson was “convicted by a jury of first degree murder and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.” In spite of this, he has “continued to maintain his innocence from the time of his arrest.”

Patterson’s mother, Joann Pryor,  hired a private investigator, Eduardo Hernandez, to investigate, after which the case was taken up by The Innocence Center. And, on March 19. 2022, after their collective investigation, Hernandez filed a conviction review request with the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) claiming Patterson was wrongfully convicted. 

The DA’s office said its Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) conducted extensive interviews, ranging from “witnesses who had either not been identified before trial or who had been identified but had not testified at trial.”

Using their collective findings as a basis, the LA County District Attorney’s Office and The Innocence Center made a collaborative request to the court “to vacate the conviction, order Patterson to be released, and issue a finding of factual innocence.” The court agreed,

In a statement recorded, Michael Semanchik, executive director of The Innocence Center said, “Stephen has always maintained his innocence. Unfortunately, his wrongful conviction was the product of a single bad eyewitness identification and shoddy police work.” 

Semanchik acknowledged the positive role of the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) in the process, explaining how “they 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.”       

Reaffirming  his support, DA Gascón said, “In this era of progress, it’s crucial to acknowledge the imperfections of our past and actively work to correct those wrongs. 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.”

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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