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Clinton Harris

Summary of Rampart Scandal
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Clinton Harris was one of approximately 170 men and women wrongfully convicted because of misconduct uncovered during an investigation into the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart division. The misconduct included false arrests, planting evidence, and perjury.

Harris, who was 32 years old, was arrested October 23, 1996 and charged with possession of a weapon by a felon. According to the arrest report, Officers Rafael Perez and Nino Durden showed up at an apartment and knocked on the door. The report said that as Harris opened the door, he said something along the lines of “Yeah, how much do you want?” The report also said that the officers could see the butt of a handgun protruding from the waistband.

Harris was placed into a police vehicle and driven to the jail for booking. While in the vehicle, according to the report, Harris said “Damn. I knew I shouldn't have bought that gun. The only reason I got it is because he sold it to me for 40 bucks.”

Harris quickly pled guilty to possession of a weapon by a felon on October 30, 1996 and was sentenced to three years in prison.

On August 17, 1998, Perez was charged with theft, possession of cocaine, and forgery. The jury deadlocked at his trial (with a majority voting for conviction) in December 1998. Police investigated further, and additional charges were filed against Perez. Just before his retrial on September 8, 1999, Perez pled guilty to eight drug charges and struck a deal with prosecutors. In exchange for a sentence of no more than five years in prison, he would cooperate with an investigation into the Rampart operations.

Perez began talking two days later. Over the next year, he met with investigators from the police department and the district attorney’s office 29 times and detailed alleged misconduct that he and his fellow officers committed.

On April 26, 2000, investigators interviewed Perez about the Harris case. He said that he couldn’t remember why the officers went to the apartment, but that the door was open and they just walked in. Perez said Harris didn’t answer the door, nor did he have a gun in his waistband. He said there was a gun on a glass table, but Harris never said the weapon was his. In addition, Perez said that Harris never gave a statement to police. He said that Durden wrote the report.

“I can picture the room,” Perez said. “What I do remember specifically was that there was a couch and a long glass table, and the gun was on the glass table. There was also, I think, a rifle found. I can specifically remember that. I specifically remember finding out that the guy said he was on some type of – he was an ex‑con. He had been convicted before. And we decided we were going to take him. I think we were right in the middle of another arrest, and we decided we were just going to take him too. And we ended up booking him as an ex‑con with a gun.”

Harris told investigators he was not in possession of a weapon when he was arrested. Other people at the apartment said the same thing. Harris also said he never gave a statement to the police.

In August 2000, the District Attorney for Los Angeles County filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on Harris’s behalf. It said prosecutors no longer had confidence in the evidence used to convict Harris. The writ was granted, and Harris’s charge dismissed on August 4, 2000.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 1/26/2021
Last Updated: 1/26/2021
State:California
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Weapon Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1996
Convicted:1996
Exonerated:2000
Sentence:3 years
Race/Ethnicity:Don't Know
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:32
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No