SAN FRANCISCO — A San Francisco man walked out of jail a free man Wednesday after spending 18 years in prison.
Caramad Conley’s murder convictions were thrown out after it was determined the star witness in the case lied on the stand and police detectives knew it.
When Conley walked out of the San Francisco City Jail on Wednesday, he had little to say. Instead he was focused on getting reacquainted with his family.
The 40-year-old Conley was dressed in white, and smiled as he walked into the sunlight and freedom to cheers and hugs from family and supporters.
Conley was accompanied by attorneys who have worked several years to free him. When asked what his plans were, he answered simply: “Take it one day at a time.”
The long saga began when Conley was convicted for his involvement in a 1989 drive-by shooting in Hunters Point that left two people dead.
Conley’s freedom came after a judge found former San Francisco Police Chief Earl Sanders — who was lead homicide inspector on the Conley case — suppressed evidence and let the prosecution’s paid witness lie on the stand.
“It’s okay to pay a witness, okay to protect a witness. But these things needs to be disclosed,” said Conley’s attorney, Zac Bookman of the Keker and Van Nast law firm.
The law firm that helped Conley previously won freedom and millions of dollars in restitution for another San Francisco man due to similar misconduct by the same detectives.
Now, they want to dig into other cases.
“Given that there are two men now that have come to light, who are innocent and have been vindicated,” explained Bookman.
Frank Jordan, who was police chief in 1989, expressed surprise that paid witnesses perjured themselves as police watched.
“I feel terribly bad about the individual who spends 18 years wrongfully in prison. There’s no way that time can be replaced,” said Jordan.
Conely was 22-years-old when he went to prison, his attorney noted. Back then, the Walkman was the hot new gadget. Almost two decades later, Caramad Conley has some catching up to do.
“It was a happy day for him. He’s been waiting many years for this day and he wants to spend this time with his family,” said Bookman. “He’s overwhelmed as you can imagine and it’s quite a lot for him to process.”