Thursday, May 4, 2017

City of Oakland to Settle Wrongful Attempted-Murder Conviction for $300,000

By Darwin BondGraham
Thu, May 4, 2017 at 11:06 AM

click to enlarge Ronald Ross.
  • Ronald Ross.
Ronald Ross was convicted in the 2006 attempted murder of Renardo Williams and spent nearly seven years in prison. Oakland's city attorney is now recommending that the city council settle a malicious-prosecution lawsuit for $300,000.

The 2006 case against Ross appeared to be a slam dunk. The Oakland police and Alameda County District Attorney alleged that Ross went to Williams' apartment in West Oakland's Campbell Village housing complex and shot him with a .22 in the stomach.

Williams, while he was recovering in Highland Hospital, identified Ross' photo when Oakland police Sgt. Steve Lovell showed him a lineup of six faces.

And another witness who was with Williams at the time of the shooting also fingered Ross as the gunman.

Ross was arrested and convicted by a jury. His sentence was to 32 years-to-life.

But then the Northern California Innocence Project and attorneys with the Keker Van Nest law firm took up Ross' case.

They alleged that Williams and another witness perjured their testimony. They also claimed that Lovell botched the case by influencing the witnesses to identify Ross, and that Lovell failed to pursue another lead on a different suspect.

Ross believes that the Oakland police fabricated testimony against him. As evidence of this, his attorneys obtained a 2011 signed statement from the victim, Williams, who claimed that, when Lovell initially showed him the six-picture lineup, he didn't identify anyone as the shooter. But then Lovell "silently indicated" that he should pick Ross' photo. Williams allegedly felt that he owed Lovell a favor, according to court documents.

However, in a later interview with several investigators from the Alameda DA's office, Williams reversed this statement, claiming again the Ross was the shooter and that he wasn't influenced by Lovell. But other doubts undermined the conviction.

For example, Lovell acknowledged during Ross' trial that he helped Travis Abner, the second witness who claimed Ross was the shooter, move out of Campbell Village and into a safer part of Oakland along with the rest of his family. The assistance supposedly was not linked to Abner's statement in favor of the prosecution, but Ross believes it was a favor in exchange for Abner identifying Ross as the shooter.

Ross' attorneys also obtained a taped interview with another man who was present when the shooting happened. He said Ross wasn't there and had nothing to do with the incident.

In 2013, Ross was exonerated and freed from prison.

Ross sued the city and Lovell in 2014 for $32 million, alleging that the Oakland police engaged in malicious prosecution and committed a Brady violation — by willfully withholding exculpatory evidence. The city countered, claiming there had been ample reason to investigate Ross, and that Lovell had probable cause to consider him a prime suspect.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James ruled in favor of the city and Lovell in 2015 and threw out Ross' lawsuit.

Ross appealed this decision. In March of this year, after a mediation process, the City of Oakland agreed to pay $300,000 to Ross to settle the lawsuit.

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