Convicted of armed robbery in Los Angeles, California in 1999, Jason Kindle was exonerated four years later when new evidence was discovered.
On November 22, 1999, a heavily disguised man with a firearm robbed an Office Depot. Before leaving the store with $15,000 in cash and $7,000 in checks, the man assaulted two employees. Office Depot security cameras captured several shots of the robbery.
Twenty-nine-year-old Jason Kindle, an Office Depot janitor, was accused of the robbery. The primary evidence against Kindle was a list of store cleaning instructions found in his home. Police and the district attorney believed it to be a robbery to-do list, although it was actually a list of janitorial tips that Kindle had written during a training course. Other evidence included eyewitness identification. Five of the Office Depot employees present during the robbery identified Kindle in a photo lineup with varying degrees of certainty. Some knew that Kindle was a suspect prior to viewing the lineup.
In a jury trial in October, 2000, Jason Kindle was convicted of eight counts of robbery with the use of a firearm and two counts of assault with a firearm. Because Kindle had two prior felony convictions, making this his “third strike,” he was sentenced to 70-year-to-life in prison.
Two years later, the state appellate panel reversed Kindle’s conviction. The reversal was based on the court’s abuse of discretion in refusing to order a retrial after learning of evidence that the items on the to-do list were janitorial tips. In addition, Kindle had received ineffective assistance of counsel. Deputy Public Defender Haydeh Takasugi erred in failing to call an expert on witnesses to challenge the weak identifications made by Office Depot employees. The Los Angeles Police Department’s conduct in interviewing the employees was also questioned. Due to insufficient evidence, the District Attorney’s Office decided not to retry Kindle. On February 3, 2003, Jason Kindle was released. Kindle sought compensation from the State of California, but the claim was denied.
- Stephanie Denzel