On March, 27 1994, Felipe Angeles was shot and killed by two men outside of a Los Angeles apartment building that was being used as a brothel. The men argued, and during what appears to have been a robbery attempt Angeles was murdered.
A resident of the building, John Jones, told police he saw the shooter run away from the scene with a leg injury. Police searched local hospitals for suspects with leg injuries and found Reggie Cole
. Jones identified Cole as the man he saw fleeing the scene.
Roughly a month later police arrested Obie Anthony in an unrelated crime. Jones then identified Anthony as the other shooter. No physical or forensic evidence connected either Cole or Anthony to the murder.
Johns testified against both men at separate trials and claimed he had clearly seen them and that he received no benefit for his testimony. Cole was convicted of first degree murder in 1994 and sentenced to life in prison. Anthony was convicted of first degree murder on August 1, 1995 and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
In November 2000, Cole stabbed a man during a prison fight. The attorney representing him in that case looked into his original conviction because a second murder conviction would make him eligible for the death penalty. The attorney discovered that the prosecution had withheld evidence that Jones had fabricated his testimony. Cole’s attorney, working with the California Innocence Project, filed a habeas corpus petition with the Los Angeles County Superior Court based on the withheld evidence and ineffective representation by his defense attorney at trial.
The prosecution conceded that Cole’s legal defense had been inadequate and the court granted Cole an evidentiary hearing in 2007 to determine if that inadequate representation had likely affected the outcome of the trial. At the hearing, Jones admitted that he had never seen the shooter and that he had relied on the description provided by his daughters. There was also evidence that Jones himself may have been the shooter.
In April 2009, the Superior Court judge vacated Cole’s conviction, and the charges against him were dismissed in July 2009. Cole remained in prison for the November 2000 stabbing until 2010. After his attorneys argued that Cole should receive credit for time served on the overturned conviction, the district attorney’s office filed new charges against Cole for allegedly concealing a razor blade in his mattress while in prison. Cole was acquitted on that charge in December 2009.
The California Innocence Project also received a request for help from Anthony and the Northern California Innocence Project took over the case in 2008. They established that in addition to fabricating his eyewitness testimony, Johns had perjured himself when he claimed that he had received no benefit for his testimony. In fact the district attorney had granted him favorable treatment on a pimping and pandering charge he was facing, and the trial prosecutors failed to inform the court or the defense that Johns had presented perjured testimony. Anthony's lawyers also showed that Anthony's trial attorney had not conducted an investigation that would have undermined the prosecutors’ case.
On October 1, 2011 a judge vacated Anthony’s conviction because of ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct, and he was released on October 4th. Prosecutors dismissed the charges on November 18, 2011.
- Michael S. Perry