LOS ANGELES (CN) - Failure to disclose that a key witness made a deal with prosecutors landed the wrong man in prison for a brothel murder, he claims in Federal Court.
Obie Anthony was released two years ago after spending more than 16 years in jail for the 1994 killing of Felipe Angeles Gonzales. He now seeks damages from Los Angeles County and its district attorney's office.
Gonzales was shot and killed after he was refused entry into a brothel operated by a pimp named John Jones, who would eventually provide testimony against Anthony and his co-defendant Reggie Cole - also released from prison in 2011.
Anthony, 19 at the time of his arrest, was convicted in 1995 and sentenced to life in prison without parole. He always maintained his innocence.
In 2011, a judge for the Los Angeles Superior Court vacated Anthony's conviction after finding that Jones lied to the jury in exchange for leniency on the pimping and pandering charges he faced.
"The court had no doubt that John Jones was 'an inherently unreliable witness,' and that, as a result of misconduct by the prosecution, the jury did not hear the truth about John Jones," the lawsuit states.
When asked directly during trial, Jones denied that he had received any concession to provide testimony against Anthony. He was the only witness to positively identify Anthony and Cole as the men who attacked Gonzales.
In his 37-page federal complaint, Anthony says a police search of Jones' brothel uncovered a .357 Smith & Wesson belonging to the pimp. Authorities allegedly failed to compare a .38 bullet found in line with Gonzales' body to the gun found in Jones' bedroom.
Anthony notes that a medical examiner found that Gonzales was killed by a bullet that had entered and exited his body at a 40 degree downward angle.
"The medical examiner further found that the fatal wound was consistent with a distant shot," the complaint states. "At the 2010-2011 habeas proceedings, it was stipulated by the parties that expert testimony would establish that a shot from the roof of John Jones's apartment building was consistent with a 40 degree downward angle."
Anthony accuses the district attorney's office of an "unconstitutional custom and practice" of using unreliable witnesses.
He last year sued Los Angeles Police Department detectives Marcella Winn and Pete Razanskas, claiming they fabricated evidence, influenced witnesses and suppressed evidence. That case is pending in the same court.
After Anthony's conviction was vacated, prosecutors declined to retry the case. The charges were dismissed on Nov. 18, 2011.
He is represented by David McLane of Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt of Pasadena, Calif.
Los Angeles County spokesman Roger Granbo told Courthouse News Service that it does not comment on pending litigation.
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