Ronald Ross Exonerated After 7 Years in Prison

Ronald Ross

By Post Staff After nearly seven years in prison, Ronald Ross was exonerated from a conviction for attempted premeditated murder. Ross was found guilty Nov. 8, 2006 of trying to murder Renardo Williams, who was shot on the front porch of his West Oakland apartment in April of that year. Ross was sentenced to 25 years to life. Police arrested Ross, who had no record of violence, after Williams, the shooting victim, picked him out of a lineup of six photos, Ross’s attorneys said. They said police showed the lineup to Williams at his hospital bedside three days after he was shot in front of his apartment at the Campbell Village complex. Ross’s attorneys said he had been included in the lineup because of a loose connection. His mother had, years earlier, lived in the same building as a woman whose family was in a dispute with Williams when he was shot. But the lawyers said Williams now admits he never thought Ross was the shooter and implicated him only because he was pressured by police and feared the real gunman would come after him. Represented without cost by the law firm of Keker & Van Nest and the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) at Santa Clara University School of Law, new evidence and proof of false testimony at Ross’s original trial in 2006 reopened the investigation. “We knew Ronald was innocent, and we wanted to work for him. People in jail who are innocent don’t have a constituency; nobody fights for you except the Northern California Innocence Project. They stand up for people who need support,” said Elliott Peters, partner at Keker & Van Nest, at a Feb. 25 press conference. “Misidentification is one of the leading causes of wrongful conviction. It took five years and seven months to win Ronald’s freedom. He is the 15th wrongfully convicted person we helped exonerate. We are thrilled to be celebrating with [him],” said Linda Starr, Legal Director at the Innocence Project. Ross talked at the press conference about what he did to keep prison from crushing the life out of him. “It’s different when you don’t have your freedom,” according to Ross, who said he developed an outlook so would wake up smiling most days and “never let the devil steal my joy.” After over four years of investigation and 2,000 unpaid honors, Ross’s attorneys presented evidence of false testimony and the case for their client’s innocence to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and the Alameda County Superior Court during a three-day hearing. Keith McArthur of McArthur Investigations led the team’s factual investigation and discovered evidence that led to Ross’s exoneration. On Feb. 20, Alameda Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson signed an order reversing the prior convictions and sentence. Two days later, District Attorney O’Malley formally dismissed the charges, after which the court ordered Ross’s release from custody. Aiming to reform the legal system, the Innocence Project is cosponsoring legislation to reduce the numbers of people innocent people who go to prison because a witness wrongly identifies them. Ross said he is looking forward to spending time with his children and grandchildren and opening a program for adolescent youth.
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