In January 1995, Robert Buck heard a noise in the parking lot outside his business in Campbell, California, and found a man breaking into his truck. Buck confronted the robber, but backed off when he thought he saw a woman in the robber’s car pointing a gun at him. Buck reported the incident to the police, and provided them with the car’s license plate number, which was traced to Mashelle Bullington, the woman Buck had seen. Later that same day, Kenneth Foley borrowed Bullington’s car, and was pulled over for making an illegal turn. When police learned that he had a prior record for robbery, they included his photo in a lineup shown to Buck. Buck identified Bullington and Foley as the two people at the robbery, but Foley insisted he was not involved. A defense investigator tracked down the real culprit, who testified at Foley’s trial that Foley was not involved and that Bullington had not had a gun, which was consistent with Bullington’s testimony. Nonetheless, in September 1995, a jury convicted Foley of armed robbery and he was sentenced to 25-years-to-life under California’s three strikes law.
After a newspaper ran a story about Foley’s case in 2006, Foley’s attorney contacted the Chief Assistant District Attorney and convinced her to reexamine the case. The new investigation cast doubt on the accuracy of the victim’s eyewitness testimony, leading the prosecution to request that Foley be resentenced. Foley was released in late 2006, pending resentencing. At the same time, the Northern California Innocence Project filed a habeas corpus petition seeking to have Foley’s conviction overturned. In April 2007, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge granted the petition and overturned Foley’s conviction. Prosecutors immediately dismissed the charges.
- Stephanie Denzel