• Man Who Spent 14 Years in Jail May Return For Crime He Says He Did Not Commit

    PASADENA (CNS) – Attorneys for a San Fernando Valley man who was set free after being jailed for almost 14 years for a crime he denies committing are set to ask an appeals court today to reject efforts by prosecutors to put the man back behind bars on a technicality.

    Daniel Larsen was ordered released from state prison in March after new evidence persuaded a federal judge that the conviction was unjust.

    However, the state attorney general’s office appealed, arguing that Larsen’s lawyers missed a deadline for filing the writ of habeas corpus that led to his freedom — and the defendant should be returned to prison post-haste to finish out his term.

    Larsen’s attorneys are expected to argue before a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that found that evidence of innocence can trump an otherwise untimely petition should lead to a denial of the AG’s efforts.

    Larsen, 46, was convicted in 1999 of carrying a concealed knife and was sent to prison as a three-striker. Attorneys for California Innocence Project, however, found witnesses — including a former police chief — who said they saw a different man throwing away the dagger in question.

    The defendant,  a onetime member of the white supremacist Nazi Low Riders gang, was ordered released four months ago by U.S. Magistrate Suzanne H. Segal, under strict conditions, to the wife he met and married last year while he was in a Lancaster prison serving a 27 years-to-life sentence.

    California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris argued that Larsen should not have been released, based on the technicality that Larsen’s lawyers waited too long to file papers and missed a deadline.

    The Innocence Project filed an appeal under habeas corpus that eventually reached the appellate court, which found Larsen to be “actually innocent,” a legal term that allows him to be released from prison while his case works its way through the courts.

    “Does innocence trump procedural delay?” is how Innocence Project co- director Jan Stiglitz summed up the legal question that recently came before the Supreme Court in McQuiggin v. Perkins.

    After heated debate, the majority concluded that compelling evidence of innocence could overcome an otherwise untimely petition, a decision that Larsen’s defense said bodes well for their client.

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