By Obie Anthony:
The story starts in March of 1994, when a brutal murder took place outside of a brothel in South Central Los Angeles. Obie and Reggie Cole were charged with the crime and convicted at trial.This was largely a result of the false testimony of John Jones.


He was the pimp who ran the brothel. In fact, the prosecution had no evidence to link Obie and Reggie to the crime. Instead, the prosecution coerced Jones’ to finger Obie and Reggie. The prosecution did so by clandestinely offering to reduce Jones’ pending 12-year felony sentence for pimping to 3 years of probation, so long as Jones testified that Obie and Reggie were the murderers. Jones accepted the prosecution’s offer and provided the requested testimony. As a result, Obie and Reggie were sentenced to life in prison. Obie was then 19 years of age.

Obie would still be incarcerated today had his conviction not been re-examined. Fortunately, this happened when Reggie was later charged with a separate crime. Obie’s and Reggie’s conviction of the 1994 murder became a critical issue concerning Reggie’s defense regarding this separate crime. Therefore, The California Innocence Project and The Loyola Project for the Innocent dug deep to uncover all the facts surrounding Reggie’s and Obie’s conviction of the 1994 murder. The result was that Jones was forced to recant his false testimony, and Obie was exonerated and set-free on October 4, 2011. Obie was then 36 years of age.

Obie spent 17 years in prison before he was exonerated. During that time, Obie never gave up on his fight for justice. The belief that someday he would be exonerated kept Obie going.

It is sad to say, but Obie is not nearly the only one with such a story.

 

Of the staggering number of 2.3 million persons presently incarcerated in the United States, which has the highest incarceration rate in the world [1], there has been a rapid annual increase over the last several years of exonerations. In 2014, a record number of 125 people were exonerated.[2] The year 2015 went on to surpass that number, with 160.[3] In 2016, 168 people were exonerated.[4] In fact, since the registry that records the number of those persons who have been exonerated and released from prison began in 1989, the registry has recorded that 2,068 people have been exonerated.[5]

As a result of the rising number of people who have been exonerated, a gigantic bill has been presented to taxpayers. The cost to make exonerees whole again has amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars nationwide. In California alone, the cost of wrongful convictions has cost the taxpayers $129 million dollars.[6]

The good news found in Obie’s story is that Obie has become a leader for change. Obie has been instrumental in the passage of California Assembly Bill No. 672 (nicknamed and cited as “Obie’s Law”). The bill requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to assist exonerees with transitional services, including housing assistance, job training, and mental health services. Obie founded and now directs Exonerated Nation, and is committed to transforming the experiences of exonerees after release.

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[1] Peter Wagner & Bernadette Rabuy, Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017,
(March 14, 2017).

[2] The National Registry of Exonerations in 2016 Report, (March 7, 2017).

[3] The National Registry of Exonerations in 2016 Report, (March 7, 2017).

[4] The National Registry of Exonerations in 2016 Report, (March 7, 2017).

[5] The National Registry of Exonerations in 2016 Report, (March 7, 2017).

[6] California Innocence Project, Wrongful Convictions has Cost CA Taxpayers
$129 Million, (Accessed July 28, 2017),
https://californiainnocenceproject.org/2012/10/wrongful-convictions-have-co st-ca-taxpayers-129-million