A 62-year-old Los Angeles man walked free from prison on Thursday after serving 32 years behind bars for a murder he has always maintained he did not commit.
Andrew Leander Wilson was released from the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail a day after a judge overturned his murder conviction. L.A. Superior Court Judge Laura Priver ordered Wilson free when prosecutors admitted he did not get a fair trial after being charged in the death of Christopher Hanson, 21, who he was accused of fatally stabbing in 1984.
“This is unbelievable. This is unbelievable,” Wilson said after Priver told him he was discharged.
Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent worked on Wilson’s case and pointed out that important evidence was never turned over to the defense during the trial. According to the Innocence Project, Hanson’s girlfriend Saladena Bishop picked Wilson’s photo from a lineup after an officer simply asked “What about him?” She was later deemed an unreliable witness after falsely accusing another man of an attempted rape. The trial prosecutor, Laura Aalto was also told by a friend of Hanson’s that Bishop had stabbed him before and could be the actual culprit.
Priver ruled that because this evidence was withheld, Wilson was not granted his constitutional right to a fair trial.
“Numerous due process violations that recently came to light show conclusively that Mr. Wilson did not receive a fair trial,” said Paula Mitchell, legal director of the Project for the Innocent. “He has never wavered and never stopped fighting to prove his innocence.”
The organization believes that the facts of the case exonerate him, but a judge will decide at a May 3 hearing on his factual innocence. But the district attorney says Wilson would not be retried.
Over the three decades Wilson was incarcerated, Wilson’s mother was his most ardent defender and says that she remained prayerful that he would one day be released. Now 96, and living in St. Louis she says she feels vindicated.
“I got it firsthand 30 years ago. I know all about how he was framed,” she told KABC. “I prayed for what I thought was the impossible. I prayed for his release. Evidently, it wasn’t impossible. It’s been granted to me.”
Wilson says he plans to go to St. Louis to see her as soon as he can. When he was released, he was reunited with his daughter, Catrina Burks, who was 10 when her father went to jai, but is now a 43-year-old mother of six living in Muskegon, Mich. “I want to really start building some memories,” she told reporters.