The Tehama County Superior Court in northern California has overturned the wrongful conviction of Larry Pohlschneider, a client of Santa Clara University School of Law’s Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP), after nearly 15 years of wrongful imprisonment for child molestation charges based on flawed medical evidence.
The Oct. 7 decision marks the 18th victory for project since its inception in 2001.
Attorneys for Pohlschneider, 46, and the Tehama County District Attorney agreed that his 2000 conviction should be vacated and the charges dismissed due to the ineffective assistance of Pohlschneider’s trial counsel. The true perpetrator has pleaded guilty and been imprisoned.
NCIP Assistant Legal Director Maitreya Badami, Pohlschneider’s lead attorney, commended the Tehama County District Attorney’s Office for its willingness to look at this case with fresh eyes when presented with evidence from NCIP’s investigation.
“Without the District Attorney’s fairness and cooperation, Mr. Pohlschneider’s unjust incarceration might have been even more prolonged,” said Badami. “The failure of Mr. Pohlschneider’s trial attorney to investigate and challenge the medical evidence resulted in an untrustworthy verdict and his wrongful imprisonment.”
“Today marks the first step toward freedom and complete vindication for Mr. Pohlschneider,” said NCIP volunteer attorney Thom Seaton. “An innocent man was pulled into a child-molestation case because of junk science which led police wrongly to focus on him as an additional perpetrator — despite the fact that the true, sole perpetrator, Albert Harris, had been charged, confessed, and ultimately pled guilty to the crime.”
Tragically, junk science passing as expert testimony is a contributing factor in 22 percent of wrongful convictions, noted NCIP Legal Director Linda Starr. “NCIP is actively working to free innocent people and establish policies to prevent wrongful convictions like Larry’s,” Starr said.
The court ordered Pohlschneider’s release, and his discharge from Tehama County Jail is expected imminently.
While yesterday’s ruling confirms Pohlschneider’s exoneration, a hearing is set for November 12 to determine whether he can file a petition to receive state compensation for his wrongful conviction.