Two California men who served nearly 17 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of attempted murder were declared innocent Thursday by a judge. Under a new law, the state is required to pay them each $140 for every day they spent behind bars, or about $900,000, the Associated Press reports. The verdicts for Dupree Glass and Juan Rayford concluded a new trial that began in October after a state appeals court vacated their convictions. They were freed in 2020. The trial included a dramatic confession by the actual shooter, Chad Brandon McZeal, a gang member who’s serving a life sentence for murder in an unrelated case. After the judge ruled, the men hugged each other and their attorneys. Outside the courthouse, they were cheered by family members and supporters. Rayford, clutching his baby daughter, called it an “amazing” feeling to have their records finally wiped clean and their reputations restored.
Defense attorneys said the case was the first brought under a law that guarantees compensation for defendants who have their cases thrown out and allows them to present evidence proving their innocence.
Glass and Rayford were 17 and 18, respectively, when they were arrested after a 2004 shooting in an altercation involving a group of teens at a home in Lancaster, north of Los Angeles. Two people were struck by gunfire, but the injuries were not serious. Both defendants were convicted of 11 counts of attempted murder and sentenced to 11 consecutive life sentences. “That trial never should have been brought in the first place,” said defense attorney Annee Della Donna. “There was no evidence tying them to the shooting. Zero.” The new statute, effective in 2020, gives the defense a chance show that there’s a “preponderance of evidence” showing innocence, she said. “We proved their innocence beyond a shadow of a doubt,” Della Donna said. The convictions of Glass and Rayford relied heavily on the testimony of two witnesses who recanted their stories.